Preoperative Opioid Use and Clinical Outcomes in Spine Surgery: A Systematic Review

Neurosurgery. 2020 Jun 1;86(6):E490-E507. doi: 10.1093/neuros/nyaa050.


Background: Prescription opioid use and opioid-related deaths have become an epidemic in the United States, leading to devastating economic and health ramifications. Opioids are the most commonly prescribed drug class to treat low back pain, despite the limited body of evidence supporting their efficacy. Furthermore, preoperative opioid use prior to spine surgery has been reported to range from 20% to over 70%, with nearly 20% of this population being opioid dependent.

Objective: To review the medical literature on the effect of preoperative opioid use in outcomes in spine surgery.

Methods: We reviewed manuscripts published prior to February 1, 2019, exploring the effect of preoperative opioid use on outcomes in spine surgery. We identified 45 articles that analyzed independently the effect of preoperative opioid use on outcomes (n = 32 lumbar surgery, n = 19 cervical surgery, n = 7 spinal deformity, n = 5 "other").

Results: Preoperative opioid use is overwhelmingly associated with negative surgical and functional outcomes, including postoperative opioid use, hospitalization duration, healthcare costs, risk of surgical revision, and several other negative outcomes.

Conclusion: There is an urgent and unmet need to find and apply extensive perioperative solutions to combat opioid use, particularly in patients undergoing spine surgery. Further investigations are necessary to determine the optimal method to treat such patients and to develop opioid-combative strategies in patients undergoing spine surgery.

Keywords: Narcotics; Opioids; Preoperative; Spine surgery.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Preoperative Care / adverse effects*
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Reoperation
  • Spinal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid