Use of prescribed opioids before and after bariatric surgery: prospective evidence from a U.S. multicenter cohort study

Authors: Wendy C. King, Ph.D., Jia-Yuh Chen, Ph.D., Steven H. Belle, Ph.D., M.Sc.Hyg., Anita P. Courcoulas, M.D., M.P.H., Gregory F. Dakin, M.D., David R Flum, M.D., M.P.H., Marcelo W. Hinojosa, M.D., Melissa A. Kalarchian, Ph.D., James E. Mitchell, M.D., Walter J. Pories, M.D., Konstantinos Spaniolas, M.D., Bruce M. Wolfe, M.D., Susan Z. Yanovski, M.D., Scott G. Engel, Ph.D., Kristine J. Steffen, Pharm.D., Ph.D.


Background: Limited evidence suggests bariatric surgery may not reduce opioid analgesic use, despite improvements in pain.

Objective: To determine if use of prescribed opioid analgesics changes in the short and long term after bariatric surgery and to identify factors associated with continued and postsurgery initiated use.

Setting: Ten U.S. hospitals.

Methods: The Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 is an observational cohort study. Assessments were conducted presurgery, 6 months postsurgery, and annually postsurgery for up to 7 years until January 2015. Opioid use was defined as self-reported daily, weekly, or “as needed” use of a prescribed medication classified as an opioid analgesic.

Results: Of 2258 participants with baseline data, 2218 completed follow-up assessment(s) (78.7% were female, median body mass index: 46; 70.6% underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass). Prevalence of opioid use decreased after surgery from 14.7% (95% CI: 13.3–16.2) at baseline to 12.9% (95% CI: 11.5–14.4) at month 6 but then increased to 20.3%, above baseline levels, as time progressed (95% CI: 18.2–22.5) at year 7. Among participants without baseline opioid use (n = 1892), opioid use prevalence increased from 5.8% (95% CI: 4.7–6.9) at month 6 to 14.2% (95% CI: 12.2–16.3) at year 7. Public versus private health insurance, more pain presurgery, undergoing subsequent surgeries, worsening or less improvement in pain, and starting or continuing nonopioid analgesics postsurgery were significantly associated with higher risk of postsurgery initiated opioid use.

Conclusion: After bariatric surgery, prevalence of prescribed opioid analgesic use initially decreased but then increased to surpass baseline prevalence, suggesting the need for alternative methods of pain management in this population.

Source: Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases; published online 04/07/17