Preoperative Opioid Use: A Risk Factor for Poor Return to Work Status After Single-level Cervical Fusion for Radiculopathy in a Workers’ Compensation Setting

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Study Design:Retrospective comparative case-control study.Objectives:The objectives of this study are: (1) How preoperative opioid use impacts RTW status after single-level cervical fusion for radiculopathy? and (2) What are other postsurgical outcomes affected by preoperative opioid use?Summary of Background Data:Opioid use has increased significantly in the past decade. The use of opioids has a drastic impact on workers’ compensation population, an at-risk cohort for poorer surgical and functional outcomes than the general population.Methods and Materials:Data was retrospectively collected from Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation between 1993 and 2011. The study population included patients who underwent single-level cervical fusion for radiculopathy as identified by current procedural terminology codes and International Classification of Diseases-9 codes. On the basis of opioid use before surgery, two groups were constructed (opioids vs. non-opioids). Using a multivariate logistic regression model, the effect of preoperative opioid use on return to work (RTW) status after fusion was analyzed and compared between the groups.Results:In the regression model, preoperative opioid use was a negative predictor of RTW status within 3-year follow-up after surgery. Opioid patients were less likely to have stable RTW status [odds ratio (OR), 0.50; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.38-0.65; P=0.05] and were less likely to RTW within the first year after surgery (OR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.37-0.66; P=0.05) compared with controls. Stable RTW was achieved in 43.3% of the opioids group and 66.6% of control group (P=0.05). RTW rate within the first year after fusion was 32.5% of opioids group and 57% of control group (P<0.05).Reoperation and permanent disability rates after surgery were higher in the opioid group compared with the control group (P<0.05).Conclusions:In a workers’ compensation, patients with work-related injury who underwent single-level cervical fusion for radiculopathy and received opioids before surgery had worse RTW status, a higher reoperation rate, and higher rate of awarded permanent disability after surgery.

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