Research on Opioid Utilization After Elective Spine Surgery
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VSI Pioneers Research on Opioid Utilization After Elective Spine Surgery

Authored by Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD, Dr. Colin Haines, MD, 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.

Dr. Ehsan Jazini is a board certified spine surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute. He has been the first in the nation, and in the world, to perform advanced surgical techniques in cervical disc replacement, augmented reality (AR) spine surgery, and robotic spine surgery. Dr. Jazini was the first in the world to perform Augmented Reality guided personalized spine implant surgery using artificial intelligence. As a leading published author in the field of spine surgery, Dr. Jazini was selected as the Editor in Chief of The Spine Health Journal for the National Spine Health Foundation. Learn more about Dr. Jazini.

Dr. Colin Haines is a board certified spine surgeon and the Director of Research at Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Haines performed the world’s first combined endoscopic and robot-guided spine surgery. His patient success has earned him a national feature on The Today Show and WebMD, and Top Doctor recognition in consecutive years.. Learn more about Dr. Haines.

Dr. Thomas Schuler is a world-renowned, double board certified spine surgeon; trained in both neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery of the spine. He founded Virginia Spine Institute in 1992 and is a recognized international leader in the treatment of neck and lower back conditions. Dr. Schuler is noted among the 100 best spine surgeons in America, and serves as President of the National Spine Health Foundation as well as Chairman of its Medical and Scientific Board. Learn more about Dr. Schuler. 

Dr. Christopher Good is a double board certified spine surgeon and the President of Virginia Spine Institute. Established as a world expert in the field, Dr. Good has pioneered the use of robotics, navigation, and augmented reality (AR) in spine surgery. He performed the first two-level disc replacement in Metro DC, Maryland, and Virginia region, and continues to evolve motion-enhancing procedures for patients suffering from neck and back conditions. Dr. Good has been named “Top Doctor” consistently over the past decade.  Learn more about Dr. Christopher Good.

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