Current literature suggests a link between the chronic use of opioids and musculoskeletal surgical complications. Given the current opioid epidemic, the need to elucidate the effects of chronic opioid use on patient outcomes and cost has become important. The purpose of this study was to determine if chronic opioid use (OD) is an independent risk factor for inpatient postoperative complications and resource utilization after primary total joint arthroplasty.
A total of 3,545,565 patients undergoing elective, unilateral, primary total hip (THA) and knee (TKA) arthroplasty for osteoarthritis from January 2016 to December 2019 were identified using a large national database. In-hospital postoperative complications, length of stay, and total costs adjusted for inflation in opioid+ patients were compared with patients without chronic opioid use (NOD). Logistic regression analyses were used to control for cofounding factors.
OD patients undergoing either THA or TKA had a higher risk of postoperative complications including respiratory (Odds Ratio (OR): 1.4 and OR: 1.3), gastrointestinal (OR: 1.8 and OR: 1.8), UTI (OR: 1.1 and OR: 1.2), blood transfusion (OR: 1.5 and OR: 1.4), and DVT (OR: 1.7 and OR: 1.6), respectively. Total cost ($16,619 ± $9,251 vs $15,603 ± $9,181, p<0.001), lengths of stay (2.15 ± 1.37 vs 2.03 ± 1.23, p<0.001), and likelihood for discharge to a rehabilitation facility (17.8 vs 15.7%, p<0.001) were higher in patients with OD.
OD was associated with higher risk for in-hospital postoperative complications and cost after primary THA and TKA. Further studies to find strategies to mitigate the impact of opioid use on complications are required.

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