Researchers at Western University and ICES Western have shown that men who filled a prescription for opioids after minor surgery were at significantly higher risk of persistent long-term opioid use and hospitalization for opioid overdose, than those who did not.
The study, “An Opioid Prescription for Men Undergoing Minor Urologic Surgery Is Associated with an Increased Risk of New Persistent Opioid Use,” demonstrates the connection between physician prescribing and potential for opioid addiction.
“The main message here is that opioid prescriptions after minor procedures do present long-term harm and they are something that should be avoided if possible,” said lead author, Dr. Blayne Welk, associate professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute.
Dr. Welk and his team examined de-identified health data through ICES Western for 90,000 men in Ontario, who underwent minor urologic surgeries, mainly vasectomies, between 2013 and 2016.
Of those, 35 per cent were prescribed and filled a prescription for narcotics. This group of patients was significantly more likely than those who didn’t fill their prescription, to fill another two prescriptions for opioids within the next nine to fifteen months. The researchers used this metric as a signal of persistent long-term use.
The researchers also found that those who filled their prescription for narcotics were three times more likely to be hospitalized for opioid overdose and other opioid-related harms, though this incidence was rare overall.
Dr. Welk says one of the challenges is that there currently aren’t consistent guidelines for how to manage pain after these types of surgeries.
“Most of the time for these minor procedures, a patient can manage their pain without narcotics, and I think that’s the real message here,” Dr. Welk said. “After the surgeries we studied, only a third of patients filled an opioid prescription, so the other two-thirds managed without them.”
Urologists were more likely to prescribe opioids than general practitioners after these minor procedures, and Dr. Welk hopes this research prompts increased awareness from urologists about opioids prescribing.
MEDIA CONTACT: Crystal Mackay, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.933.5944, email@example.com @CrystalMackay
Western University delivers an academic experience second to none. Since 1878, The Western Experience has combined academic excellence with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social and cultural growth in order to better serve our communities. Our research excellence expands knowledge and drives discovery with real-world application. Western attracts individuals with a broad worldview, seeking to study, influence and lead in the international community.
ABOUT THE SCHULICH SCHOOL OF MEDICINE & DENTISTRY
The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University is one of Canada’s preeminent medical and dental schools. Established in 1881, it was one of the founding schools of Western University and is known for being the birthplace of family medicine in Canada. For more than 130 years, the School has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and a passion for scientific discovery.
ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario