Pain Medicine Specialists Innovate to Tackle Ongoing US Opioid Epidemic by Reducing Abuse After Surgery

Newswise – CHICAGO – Drug overdose deaths broke records in 2020, and while the pandemic has undoubtedly contributed, surgery plays an important and often overlooked role in the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States, as many patients continue to use their prescribed opioids months after their procedures. Pain Medicine Specialists Lead the Way in the Fight Against the Opioid Epidemic by Developing Strategies to Reduce Surgery-Related Opioid Abuse, Helping Alleviate Pain before the procedure to ensure that at-risk patients have access to naloxone to avoid accidental overdose, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

The Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention reported that the number of drug overdose deaths in 2020 climbed to more than 94,000, almost 30% more than in 2019. The majority of those deaths were due to opioids.

“Even though patients don’t take opioids before surgery, many continue to use them for months after surgery, which increases the risk of accidental overdose,” said David Dickerson, MD, pain medicine specialist. and chair of the ASA Pain Medicine Committee. “The bottom line is, it’s never too early to involve a pain medicine specialist.

Anesthetists, who are experts in pain medicine, are specially trained and trained to help fight the opioid epidemic. September is Pain Awareness Month, and the ASA highlights its role in reducing opioid abuse after surgery.

  • Prescription of the pre-clearance. Just as rehabilitation after surgery helps patients regain function and improve their quality of life, pre-adaptation can ensure that some patients are better prepared and healthier before surgery. During the preoperative assessment, the patient’s surgeon or anesthetist may prescribe patient-specific lifestyle changes, such as exercise, stress reduction, improved diet, and quitting. tobacco. Pre-adaptation helps patients achieve better results and prepares them for a successful recovery after the procedure, including restoring function and reducing opioid dependence.
  • Manage pain before surgery. Many patients benefit from seeing a pain medicine specialist before surgery to treat pain unrelated to the reason for surgery. This is especially useful for patients who suffer from chronic pain that lasts three to six months or more. For example, a patient who has had knee replacement surgery may also suffer from chronic back pain, which increases the risk of becoming dependent on opioids long after surgery. Pain medicine specialists can assess pain and treat it before surgery with non-opioid alternatives (which are also used to manage chronic pain). Some of the treatments include:
    • Peripheral nerve stimulation – In this procedure, the pain medicine specialist implants a small wire under the skin near the source of the pain to disrupt pain signals to the spine and brain. It is often used to treat chronic back pain.
    • Percutaneous interlaminar decompression – For this new treatment for spinal stenosis (narrowing of space in the spine, a common source of back pain), the pain medicine specialist makes a small puncture in the lower back and inserts a needle to remove the accumulated tissue by pushing on the nerves.
    • Injections or nerve blocks – Injecting local anesthetics or other drugs can help bypass pain at its source, whether the patient is suffering from back pain or chronic headaches.
  • Ensure access to naloxone after surgery. Patients who are prescribed opioids after surgery may be at risk of accidental overdose. If a patient is at increased risk (for example, the patient has breathing problems or consumes alcohol or other drugs that affect breathing), the patient’s surgeon or anesthetist may prescribe naloxone. at hand. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can be used to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The ASA Opioid Resuscitation Guide provides an overview of the signs of an overdose.

It is important to prepare before surgery to reduce the risk of opioid overuse after the procedure. Learn more on the signs of opioid dependence, overdose and how to respond with ASA resources.


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research, and scientific society with more than 54,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. The ASA is committed to ensuring that anesthetists assess and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the safest, highest quality care that every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role anesthetists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Like ASA on Facebook, to follow ASALifeline on Twitter.

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