There is insufficient prospective evidence regarding the relationship between surgical experience and prolonged opioid use and pain. The authors investigated the association of patient characteristics, surgical procedure, and perioperative anesthetic course with postoperative opioid consumption and pain 3 months postsurgery. The authors hypothesized that patient characteristics and intraoperative factors predict opioid consumption and pain 3 months postsurgery.


Eleven U.S. and one European institution enrolled patients scheduled for spine, open thoracic, knee, hip, or abdominal surgery, or mastectomy, in this multicenter, prospective observational study. Preoperative and postoperative data were collected using patient surveys and electronic medical records. Intraoperative data were collected from the Multicenter Perioperative Outcomes Group database. The association between postoperative opioid consumption and surgical site pain at 3 months, elicited from a telephone survey conducted at 3 months postoperatively, and demographics, psychosocial scores, pain scores, pain management, and case characteristics, was analyzed.


Between September and October 2017, 3,505 surgical procedures met inclusion criteria. A total of 1,093 cases were included; 413 patients were lost to follow-up, leaving 680 (64%) for outcome analysis. Preoperatively, 135 (20%) patients were taking opioids. Three months postsurgery, 96 (14%) patients were taking opioids, including 23 patients (4%) who had not taken opioids preoperatively. A total of 177 patients (27%) reported surgical site pain, including 45 (13%) patients who had not reported pain preoperatively. The adjusted odds ratio for 3-month opioid use was 18.6 (credible interval, 10.3 to 34.5) for patients who had taken opioids preoperatively. The adjusted odds ratio for 3-month surgical site pain was 2.58 (1.45 to 4.4), 4.1 (1.73 to 8.9), and 2.75 (1.39 to 5.0) for patients who had site pain preoperatively, knee replacement, or spine surgery, respectively.


Preoperative opioid use was the strongest predictor of opioid use 3 months postsurgery. None of the other variables showed clinically significant association with opioid use at 3 months after surgery.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Opioid exposure at the time of surgery has been identified as a risk factor for persistent opioid use
  • Most data examining this association are based on healthcare utilization claims with limited clinical detail, particularly regarding the patient’s experience of pain
What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • In these prospectively collected cohort data, preoperative opioid use was identified as the strongest risk factor for opioid use at 3 months postoperatively
  • No correlation was found between persistent opioid use at 3 months and surgical site pain at 3 months
  • No association was identified between preoperative anxiety, preoperative depression, or surgery type and opioid use at 3 months in multivariable models, although credible intervals were large for some variables