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VSI Pioneers Research on Opioid Utilization After Elective Spine Surgery

Authored by Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD, FACS, Dr. Colin Haines, MD, FACS, Dr. Thomas Schuler, MD, FACS, FAAOS, Dr. Christopher Good, MD, FACS. March 31, 2022

The spine surgeons at VSI are proud to share their incredible findings on the use of opioids after spine surgery. With the advancements in minimally invasive spine surgery and modernized spine surgery recovery programs (ERAS) the great news is that patients have less pain and take less pain medication after surgery than ever before.  Patients who had never been exposed to opioids (opioid naive) prior to surgery had better pain control after surgery and had nearly double the percentage of opioids leftover compared to the patients who were taking opioids (opioids tolerant) leading up to surgery.

Here are the top takeaways from VSI’s opioid use study:

  1. When the most common elective spine surgeries (anterior cervical surgeries, lumbar decompression surgeries, lumbar fusions) are grouped together, nearly 50% of opioids were left unused at 3 months after surgery.
  2. When those 3 surgical groups were separated, the lumbar decompression group had the largest amount (nearly 60%) of leftover opioids – meaning these patients took less pills, and the lumbar fusion group had the smallest amount (nearly 40%) of leftover opioids, meaning they took more.
  3. This research study has shown the reduction in opioid usage after the most common neck and low back surgeries.
The VSI surgeons are at the forefront of combating the opioid crisis in America; this is the first study of its kind, closely analyzing opioid needs up to 3 months after spine surgery. With the knowledge gained from this study, more precise tailoring of opioid prescriptions is possible.