A new study finds patients who receive small “just in case” prescriptions of opioids after surgery report less pain than those who receive the usual amount of post-surgical opioids.
University of Michigan researchers studied 620 patients who underwent surgery for gallbladder removal, thyroid removal or hernia repair. Half the patients received pre-surgery counseling that emphasized non-opioid pain treatment. Some of these patients were given small “just in case” prescriptions, while one-third did not receive any opioid prescription.
The other half received the usual amount of opioid given after surgery. Patients in both groups said they were equally satisfied with their care, and reported similar quality of life. Those counseled to use opioids only as a backup reported experiencing less pain overall.
“We know that opioids pose serious risks to patients after surgery,” senior author Ryan Howard, M.D., said in a news release. “We can protect patients from those risks by reducing or eliminating opioids after surgery. But that idea always raises the concern that patients will have uncontrolled pain and feel miserable. This study suggests that’s not the case — patients who get small opioid prescriptions, or even no prescription, are just as satisfied with their recovery after surgery.”