Incidence of persistent postoperative opioid use in patients undergoing ambulatory surgery: a retrospective cohort study

Anaesthesia. 2022 Oct 31. doi: 10.1111/anae.15900. Online ahead of print.


The opioid crisis remains a major public health concern. In ambulatory surgery, persistent postoperative opioid use is poorly described and temporal trends are unknown. A population-based retrospective cohort study was undertaken in Ontario, Canada using routinely collected administrative data for adults undergoing ambulatory surgery between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2017. The primary outcome was persistent postoperative opioid use, defined using best-practice methods. Multivariable generalised linear models were used to estimate the association of persistent postoperative opioid use with prognostic factors. Temporal trends in opioid use were examined using monthly time series, adjusting for patient-, surgical- and hospital-level variables. Of 340,013 patients, 44,224 (13.0%, 95%CI 12.9-13.1%) developed persistent postoperative opioid use after surgery. Following multivariable adjustment, the strongest predictors of persistent postoperative opioid use were pre-operative: utilisation of opioids (OR 9.51, 95%CI 8.69-10.39); opioid tolerance (OR 88.22, 95%CI 77.21-100.79); and utilisation of benzodiazepines (OR 13.75, 95%CI 12.89-14.86). The time series model demonstrated a small but significant trend towards decreasing persistent postoperative opioid use over time (adjusted percentage change per year -0.51%, 95%CI -0.83 to -0.19%, p = 0.003). More than 10% of patients who underwent ambulatory surgery experienced persistent postoperative opioid use; however, there was a temporal trend towards a reduction in persistent opioid use after surgery. Future studies are needed that focus on interventions which reduce persistent postoperative opioid use.

Keywords: ambulatory surgery; chronic use; opioid; pain; persistent use.