To assess the association between preoperative opioid exposure and readmissions following common surgery.
Preoperative opioid use is common, but its effect on opioid-related, pain-related, respiratory-related, and all-cause readmissions following surgery is unknown.
We analyzed claims data from a 20% national Medicare sample of patients ages ≥ 65 with Medicare Part D claims undergoing surgery between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2016. We grouped patients by the dose, duration, recency, and continuity of preoperative opioid prescription fills. We used logistic regression to examine the association between prior opioid exposure and 30-day readmissions, adjusted for patient risk factors and procedure type.
Of 373,991 patients, 168,579 (45%) filled a preoperative opioid prescription within 12 months of surgery, ranging from minimal to chronic high use. Preoperative opioid exposure was associated with higher rate of opioid-related readmissions, compared with naive patients [low: aOR=1.63, 95% CI=1.26-2.12; high: aOR=3.70, 95% CI=2.71-5.04]. Preoperative opioid exposure was also associated with higher risk of pain-related readmissions [low: aOR=1.27, 95% CI=1.23-1.32; high: aOR=1.62, 95% CI=1.53-1.71] and respiratory-related readmissions [low: aOR=1.10, 95% CI=1.05-1.16; high: aOR=1.44, 95% CI=1.34-1.55]. Low, moderate, and high chronic preoperative opioid exposures were predictive of all-cause readmissions (low: OR 1.09, 95% CI: 1.06-1.12); high: OR 1.23, 95% CI: 1.18-1.29).
Higher levels of preoperative opioid exposure are associated with increased risk of readmissions after surgery. These findings emphasize the importance of screening patients for preoperative opioid exposure and creating risk mitigation strategies for patients.