Conference Coverage

Pursue multimodal pain management in patients taking opioids



For surgical patients on chronic opioid therapy, the goals of pain management are to provide adequate analgesia, prevent withdrawal, and avoid relapse or worsening of opioid use, according to Stephanie B. Jones, MD, professor and chair of anesthesiology at Albany Medical College, New York.

“[With] any patient coming in for any sort of surgery, you should be considering multimodal pain management. That applies to the opioid use disorder patient as well,” Dr. Jones said in a presentation at the virtual Annual Minimally Invasive Surgery Symposium sponsored by Global Academy for Medical Education.

“The challenge of opioid-tolerant patients or opioid abuse patients is twofold – tolerance and hyperalgesia,” Dr. Jones said. Patient tolerance changes how patients perceive pain and respond to medication. Clinicians need to consider the “opioid debt,” defined as the daily amount of opioid medication required by opioid-dependent patients to maintain their usual prehospitalization opioid levels, she explained. Also consider hyperalgesia, a change in pain perception “resulting in an increase in pain sensitivity to painful stimuli, thereby decreasing the analgesic effects of opioids,” Dr. Jones added.

A multimodal approach to pain management in patients on chronic opioids can include some opioids as appropriate, Dr. Jones said. Modulation of pain may draw on epidurals and nerve blocks, as well as managing CNS perception of pain through opioids or acetaminophen, and also using systemic options such as alpha-2 agonists and tramadol, she said.

Studies have shown that opioid abuse or dependence were associated with increased readmission rates, length of stay, and health care costs in surgery patients, said Dr. Jones. However, switching opioids and managing equivalents is complex, and “equianalgesic conversions serve only as a general guide to estimate opioid dose equivalents,” according to UpToDate’s, “Management of acute pain in the patient chronically using opioids,” she said.

Dr. Jones also addressed the issue of using hospitalization as an opportunity to help patients with untreated opioid use disorder. Medication-assisted options include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

“One problem with methadone is that there are a lot of medications interactions,” she said. Buprenorphine has the advantage of being long-lasting, and is formulated with naloxone which deters injection. “Because it is a partial agonist, there is a lower risk of overdose and sedation,” and it has fewer medication interactions. However, some doctors are reluctant to prescribe it and there is some risk of medication diversion, she said.

Naltrexone is newer to the role of treating opioid use disorder, Dr. Jones said. “It can cause acute withdrawal because it is a full opioid antagonist,” she noted. However, naltrexone itself causes no withdrawal if stopped, and no respiratory depression or sedation, said Dr. Jones.

“Utilize addiction services in your hospital if you suspect a patient may be at risk for opioid use disorder,” and engage these services early, she emphasized.

Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.

Dr. Jones had no financial conflicts to disclose.

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