Preoperative Narcotic Use as a Predictor of Clinical Outcome: Results Following Anterior Cervical Arthrodesis

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Study Design.Prognostic Study, Level II (Retrospective review of prospectively collected data).Objective.To identify an association between preoperative narcotic use and clinical outcome after cervical arthrodesis.Summary of Background Data.Little data exists regarding the influence that chronic preoperative narcotic use has on clinical outcomes after surgery. Cervical arthrodesis is a common procedure that has a predictably high success rate for relief of radicular pain. In addition, the patient population presenting for this procedure has a high propensity for preoperative narcotic use.Methods.Charts and prospectively collected questionnaires concerning the use of pain medication from 91 consecutive patients who underwent cervical arthrodesis for relief of radicular pain by a single surgeon at a single institution were reviewed. Group I consisted of 47 patients who took narcotic pain medication for their radicular pain on a daily basis for greater than 6 months before surgery. Group II consisted of 44 patients who were not on narcotics chronically before surgery. Postoperative narcotic use and patient outcome based on the modified Robinson criteria were assessed. Patients were observed for a minimum of 2 years.Results.Of the group I patients, 16 (34%) continued to require chronic narcotic pain medication up to 2 years after surgery whereas only 3 (7%) of the group II patients required narcotic pain medication past 3 months (P = 0.002). Of the group I patients, 24 (51%) had a good or excellent result after surgery and 15 (32%) had a poor result whereas 38 (86%) of the group II patients had a good or excellent result and no patient had a poor result (P < 0.001).Conclusion.Chronic narcotic use before cervical arthrodesis was found to be associated with continued narcotic use after surgery and worse functional outcomes following surgery. While further studies will be necessary to ascertain if this relationship is generalizable to other orthopaedic procedures and to analyze for potential confounding variables, surgeons may want to counsel their patients about the potential for inferior clinical outcomes if narcotics are used before surgery.

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