Description: In May 2022, leadership within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) approved a joint clinical practice guideline for the use of opioids when managing chronic pain. This synopsis summarizes the recommendations that the authors believe are the most important to highlight.
Methods: In December 2020, the VA/DoD Evidence-Based Practice Work Group assembled a team to update the 2017 VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain. The guideline development team included clinical stakeholders and conformed to the National Academy of Medicine's tenets for trustworthy clinical practice guidelines. The guideline team developed key questions to guide a systematic evidence review that was done by an independent third party and distilled 20 recommendations for care using the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) system. The guideline team also created 3 one-page algorithms to help guide clinical decision making. This synopsis presents the recommendations and highlights selected recommendations on the basis of clinical relevance.
Recommendations: This guideline is intended for clinicians who may be considering opioid therapy to manage patients with chronic pain. This synopsis reviews updated recommendations for the initiation and continuation of opioid therapy; dose, duration, and taper of opioids; screening, assessment, and evaluation; and risk mitigation. New additions are highlighted, including recommendations about the use of buprenorphine instead of full agonist opioids; assessing for behavioral health conditions and factors associated with higher risk for harm, such as pain catastrophizing; and the use of pain and opioid education to reduce the risk for prolonged opioid use for postsurgical pain.