Study finds 1 in 7 lung surgery patients become dependent on opioids; those with invasive surgeries have double the risk

The use of opioids after surgery is intended to be a short-term treatment to relieve pain. However, a study presented to The Society of Thoracic Surgeons revealed that lung surgery patients become dependent on them even months after their surgery.

  • Researchers of the study analyzed data of cancer patients from January 2010 to June 2014 with the use of insurance claims from the Truven Health MarketScan database.
  • The study involved 3,026 patients who underwent an operation to remove part of the lung and were “opioid naive,” or those who were not chronically receiving opioid analgesics on a daily basis.
  • The study revealed that one out of seven patients became “new persistent opioid users” after surgery.
  • The researchers defined “new persistent opioid users” as patients who were not taking opioids prior to surgery, but when they had surgery, they took opioid pain medication, and continued to use the drug after the operation, even after all wounds had healed and physical recovery was complete.
  • Moreover, patients who underwent an open, traditional lung surgery were about two times more likely of becoming chronic opioid users in comparison to those who underwent a minimally invasive lung surgery.
  • The researchers suggested that there is a need for developed and standardized strategies among all caregivers to educate patients about the details of surgical operations, the risks of opioid use, alternative to opioids for pain relief, managing expectations for pain after surgery, and instructions for proper disposal of unused pills.
  • This research was presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

The findings of the study indicated that one in seven lung surgery patients continue to use opioids and become dependent on it even after healing completely.

For the full text of the press release, go to this link.

Journal Reference:

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. 1 IN 7 LUNG SURGERY PATIENTS AT RISK FOR OPIOID DEPENDENCE. NewsWise, 25 January 2018. <>.

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