Opioid Management in Older Adults with Chronic Kidney Disease: A Review

Am J Med. 2019 Dec;132(12):1386-1393. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.06.014. Epub 2019 Jul 8.


Chronic pain, a common comorbidity of chronic kidney disease, is consistently under-recognized and difficult to treat in older adults with nondialysis chronic kidney disease. Given the decreased kidney function associated with aging and chronic kidney disease, these patients are at increased risk for drug accumulation and adverse events. Emerging research has demonstrated the efficacy of opioids in chronic kidney disease patients, but research specifically focusing on older, nondialysis chronic kidney disease patients is scarce. The primary objective of this review is to determine which oral and transdermal opioids are the safest for older, nondialysis chronic kidney disease patients. We discuss the limited existing evidence on opioid prescription in older, nondialysis chronic kidney disease patients and provide recommendations for the management of oral and transdermal opioids in this patient population. Specifically, transdermal buprenorphine, transdermal fentanyl, and oral hydromorphone are the most tolerable opioids in these patients; hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone are useful but require careful monitoring; and tramadol, codeine, morphine, and meperidine should be avoided due to risk of accumulation and adverse events. Because older adults with nondialysis chronic kidney disease are at increased risk for adverse events, vigilant monitoring of opioid prescription is critical. Lastly, collaboration among an interprofessional clinical team can ensure safe prescription of opioids in older adults with nondialysis chronic kidney disease.

Keywords: Aging; Chronic kidney disease; Collaboration; Nondialysis; Older adults; Opioids; Pain management.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid