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Many Bariatric Surgery Patients Using Opioids Seven Years Later

WEDNESDAY, June 7, 2017 -- About 20 percent of U.S. bariatric surgery patients are still using prescription opioids seven years later, according to a study published recently in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

The researchers followed 2,218 patients nationwide. Before surgery, 14.7 percent said they regularly used a prescription opioid. Six months after surgery, the rate fell to 12.9 percent, but it rose to 20.3 percent after seven years. Hydrocodone was the most commonly used opioid medication, followed by tramadol and oxycodone.

Of patients who were not using opioids at the time of surgery, 5.8 percent were taking them six months later and 14.2 percent were taking them seven years after their operations. The researchers also reported a rise in the use of prescription treatments for opioid dependence during the study, which began in 2006. But their use was still rare, with less than 2 percent of patients using them through the follow-up period.

"Our study does not prove that bariatric surgery causes an increase in opioid use," study coauthor Anita Courcoulas, M.D., M.P.H., chief of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said in a center news release. "However, it does demonstrate the widespread use of opioids among post-surgical patients, thereby highlighting the need for alternative pain management approaches."

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Posted: June 2017

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