The study abstract, “Persistent Opioid Usage among Pediatric Patients Following Surgery
in the United States,” will be presented on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Marriott Marquis
Researchers examined data including nearly 90,000 privately insured U.S. patients
between ages 13 and 21 (averaging age 17) with no previous opioid prescriptions who
underwent one of 13 common surgeries for this age group, compared with a control sample.
They looked for persistent opioid use, defined as continued prescription refills 90
to 180 days after the surgical procedure and beyond what is expected after routine
They found the incidence of new persistent opioid use following surgery was 4.8 percent,
ranging from 2.7 percent to 15.2 percent across procedures, as compared to 0.1 percent
in the nonoperative control group.
Gallbladder removal and colon surgery were among procedures associated with highest
risk of new persistent opioid use, said lead abstract author Calista Harbaugh, M.D.,
a general surgery resident at the University of Michigan Medical School and pediatric
surgery researcher at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Michigan Opioid Engagement
Network. In addition, they found older youth with additional chronic conditions, depression,
anxiety or prior substance use disorders were at higher risk.
“Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain after surgery, and until recently it was
generally believed they were not addictive,” Harbaugh said. Recent research has shown
that many adults are chronically using opioids after surgery, she said, but this is
the first to show that long-term opioid use may also be a significant problem for
adolescents and young adults who have surgery.
“The study is an important step toward recognizing that the opioid epidemic is affecting
adolescents and young adults in a major way,” Harbaugh said, noting that when a refill
is provided, the opioid pills may have been used, or they may have been saved or given
to someone else in the community.
“Most adolescents who misuse prescription opioids get the pills from leftover prescriptions
of their family, friends, or their own,” she said. “We need to make sure that we treat
pain after surgery, but it must be balanced with the risk of providing more opioid
than necessary to patients and their communities.”
Harbaugh will present the abstract, funded by the Michigan Department of Health &
Human Services and available at http://aapexperience.org/aap-conference-planner/, on Sunday, Sept. 17 from 11:57 a.m. to 12:02 p.m. in the Marriot Marquis Chicago
in Grand Horizon D-G.