Weeding Out the Problem: The Impact of Preoperative Cannabinoid Use on Pain in the Perioperative Period

Anesth Analg. 2019 Sep;129(3):874-881. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000003963.


Background: The recreational and medical use of cannabinoids has been increasing. While most studies and reviews have focused on the role of cannabinoids in the management of acute pain, no study has examined the postoperative outcomes of surgical candidates who are on cannabinoids preoperatively. This retrospective cohort study examined the impact of preoperative cannabinoid use on postoperative pain scores and pain-related outcomes in patients undergoing major orthopedic surgery.

Methods: Outcomes of patients who had major orthopedic surgery at our hospital between April 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017 were reviewed. Data were obtained from Networked Online Processing of Acute Pain Information, a locally developed database for our Acute Pain Service. Propensity score matching was used to balance baselines variables including age, sex, type of surgery, history of depression or anxiety, and perioperative use of regional anesthesia between patients who reported use of cannabinoids and those not on this substance. Intensity of pain with movement in the early postoperative period (defined as up to 36 hours after surgery) was the primary outcome of this study. The secondary outcomes (all in early postoperative period) were pain at rest, opioid consumption, incidence of pruritus, nausea and vomiting, sedation, delirium, constipation, impairment of sleep and physical activity, patient satisfaction with analgesia, and the length of Acute Pain Service follow-up.

Results: A total of 3793 patients were included in the study. Of these, 155 patients were identified as being on cannabinoids for recreational or medical indications in the preoperative period. After propensity score matching, we compared data from 155 patients who were on cannabinoids and 155 patients who were not on cannabinoids. Patients who were on preoperative cannabinoids had higher pain numerical rating score (median [25th, 75th percentiles]) at rest (5.0 [3.0, 6.1] vs 3.0 [2.0, 5.5], P = .010) and with movement (8.0 [6.0, 9.0] vs 7.0 [3.5, 8.5], P = .003), and a higher incidence of moderate-to-severe pain at rest (62.3% vs 45.5%, respectively, P = .004; odds ratio, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.25-3.14) and with movement (85.7% vs 75.2% respectively, P = .021; odds ratio, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.10-3.57) in the early postoperative period compared to patients who were not on cannabinoids. There was also a higher incidence of sleep interruption in the early postoperative period for patients who used cannabinoids.

Conclusions: This retrospective study with propensity-matched cohorts showed that cannabinoid use was associated with higher pain scores and a poorer quality of sleep in the early postoperative period in patients undergoing major orthopedic surgery.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / administration & dosage
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Use / trends
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects*
  • Pain Measurement / trends
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology
  • Preoperative Care / adverse effects*
  • Preoperative Care / trends
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Cannabinoids