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Depression linked to persistent opioid use after hysterectomy



In patients undergoing hysterectomy, preoperative depression is associated with an increased risk of first-time persistent opioid use after surgery.

A woman holds opioid pills. Liderina/Thinkstock

Women with depression had an 8% increased risk of perioperative opioid use but a 43% increased risk of persistent use, defined as at least one perioperative prescription followed by at least one prescription 90 days or longer after surgery.

Opioid prescriptions after surgery have been on the rise in recent years, and this has led to a focus on how chronic pain disorders are managed. But studies have shown that patients undergoing general surgery, both minor and major, are at increased risk of persistent opioid use, even after a single surgery, according to Erin Carey, MD, director of the division of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who presented the research at the meeting sponsored by AAGL.

“We also know that preoperative depression has been linked to adverse outcomes after hysterectomy, both acute postoperative pain in the first 2 days after surgery, and increasing the risk of chronic postoperative pain,” Dr. Carey said.

That prompted her and her team to look at whether preoperative depression might influence the risk of new persistent opioid use after hysterectomy. They analyzed data from the IBM Watson/Truven Health Analytics MarketScan database of claims-based data, which collects information from a variety of sources, including electronic medical records and workplace records such as absences, disability, and long-term disability.

“So it does allow for long-term tracking, which makes it optimal for this type of study,” said Dr. Carey.

The study included 382,078 hysterectomies performed between 2001 and 2015 on women who had continuous prescription plans 180 days before to 180 days after the procedure, excluding anyone who had an opioid prescription in the previous 180 days; 60% of the procedures were minimally invasive. About 20% of women were considered to have depression before the procedure, based on a diagnosis (55%), an antidepressant prescription (22%), or both (23%).

There were some differences at baseline between the two populations: Women with preoperative depression were more likely to have a comorbid pain disorder, compared with patients without depression (20% vs. 14%), another psychiatric disorder (2% vs. less than 1%), and a Charlson comorbidity (12% vs. 9%). They also were less likely to undergo a minimally invasive procedure than women without depression (66% vs. 79%). There was an increase in the prevalence of depression over time, from 16% to 23%.

Overall, 74% of women were prescribed an opioid during the perioperative period; 17% were filled before the hysterectomy was performed. Preoperative fills also increased over time, from 4% in 2001 to 21% in 2015.

Women with preoperative depression were at a slightly greater risk for perioperative opioid use (risk ratio, 1.08), but a greater risk for persistent postoperative opioid use (11% vs. 8%; RR, 1.43). The heightened risk for opioid use was similar whether the surgery was performed on an outpatient or inpatient basis.

The presence of other comorbidities in women with diagnosed depression or prescribed antidepressants complicates the findings, according to Dr. Carey. “There may be additional chronic pain factors that are confounding this data, but it is consistent with other data that de novo postoperative opioid dependence may be a higher risk for these patients, so it’s important for us to look at that critically.”

Dr. Carey has been a consultant for Teleflex Medical and a speaker for Med-IQ.

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