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Orthopedic surgeons' group issues strong recommendations to curb opioid overuse

October 13, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The membership association representing orthopedic surgeons, the third largest prescribers of opioids in the healthcare system, has signed off on an information statement calling for these professionals to take a more active role in promoting safe opioid use in their patients.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' Information Statement on Opioid Use, Misuse and Abuse in Orthopaedic Practice issues several recommendations, including use of standardized protocols to control prescriptions in order to depersonalize discussions with patients about opioids. “Protocols should set ranges for acceptable amounts and durations of opioids for various surgical and non-surgical conditions and procedures,” states an Oct. 12 news release about the document.

Other recommendations in the statement include:

  • Identifying and treating, before surgery, patients who because of conditions such as depression are at risk for greater use of opioids.

  • Working with patients pre-surgery to establish a social network of nurses, health aides and loved ones to provide needed support during recovery from surgery.

  • Establishment of a nationwide tracking system to allow surgeons to see all prescriptions filled by a patient. “Opioid use is best coordinated through a single prescribing physician/surgeon/practice,” the academy states.

Perhaps the broadest recommendation of the academy calls for a culture change regarding opioids. “Making opioids the focus of pain management has created many unintended consequences that often put both patients and their families at increased risk of addiction and death,” the academy states. “Peace of mind is the strongest pain reliever.”

The academy cites the often-heard and staggering statistic that the United States accounts for 80% of the world's prescription opioid use. “The rest of the world is able to manage the same types of illnesses with far fewer opioids, yet with equal satisfaction in terms of pain relief,” the news release states.

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