Opioid consumption in patients undergoing Roux-en-Y bariatric surgery compared with population controls with and without obesity

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2022 Jan;18(1):107-116. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2021.08.010. Epub 2021 Aug 18.


Background: Patients with obesity are prescribed more opioids than the general population.

Objectives: To compare opioid consumption in patients with obesity who underwent Roux-en-Y bariatric surgery (RYGB) with population controls with and without obesity, not undergoing bariatric surgery, and to identify characteristics associated with opioid use.

Setting: This study included all patients with a principal diagnosis of obesity, aged 18-72 years, with a RYGB surgical code in the Swedish Patient Register between 2007 and 2013.

Methods: RYGB patients (n = 23,898) were age- and sex-matched with 1 control patient with obesity (n = 23,898) and 2 population controls without obesity (n = 46,064). Participants were classified as nonconsumers and consumers based on their opioid dispensations during the 12 months before baseline. Opioid consumption was assessed for 24 months.

Results: Nonconsumers. Within 24 months, a significantly higher proportion of RYGB patients (16.6%) started using opioids compared with the controls with obesity (14.3%, P < .0001) and population controls (5.4%, P < .0001). RYGB patients and controls with obesity had higher median daily intake of opioid morphine equivalent (MEQ) (2.8 mg/d) than population controls (2.5 mg/d, P < .0001). Consumers. Within 24 months, the proportion of RYGB patients and controls with obesity that was using opioids were similar (53.1% and 53.4%), but higher compared to population controls (38.0%, P < .0001). The median daily opioid MEQ was higher among RYGB patients than in population controls (10.5 versus 7.8 mg/d, P < .0001). RYGB patients, overall, had higher incidence of bowel surgery and cholecystectomy compared with controls with obesity and population controls, leading to prolonged opioid use in this group. Opioid consumption in general was associated with chronic pain and psychiatric disorder, which were more common in patients with obesity than in the population controls.

Conclusion: RYGB surgery increased the risk of prolonged opioid use in patients with obesity who were nonconsumers before surgery but had no effect on overall opioid use among prior consumers. RYGB-associated complications requiring surgery influenced opioid use for both nonconsumers and consumers. Regular reassessments of pain mechanisms and specific treatment owing to type of pain could prevent unnecessary opioid use in this patient group.

Keywords: Bariatric surgery; Consumer; Nonconsumer; Obesity; Opioid analgesics; Pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Bariatric Surgery* / adverse effects
  • Gastric Bypass* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Obesity, Morbid* / epidemiology
  • Population Control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid