Each year, tens of thousands of patients who are prescribed opioids after surgery remain reliant on these medications even after their acute surgical pain has subsided. This worrying trend is one of the most widely recognized ways in which surgeons have contributed to opioid crises in many regions around the world. However, the troubling link between surgery and opioids goes well beyond contributing to the number of patients who become long-term opioid users. There is now also growing awareness of the impact that preoperative opioid use has on surgical outcomes. In patients undergoing total joint replacement, preoperative opioid use has been linked to greater rates of serious complications, higher rates of revision, and lengthier stays in hospital following their operation. Despite the growing awareness of these risks, we still know very little about how to minimize these risks among patients who present to their surgeon with a history of opioid use.
To help tackle this global problem, several members of the OPUS team (Professor Peter Choong, Professor Philip Clarke, Associate Professor Michelle Dowsey, and Dr Tim Spelman) met with world-leading clinicians and researchers in Hong Kong earlier this year. At this meeting, the Consortium Against the overuse of Opioids in Surgery (CAOS) was formed in the hopes of fostering international collaboration on research projects that aim to directly reduce opioid-related harm among surgical patients. Not only will CAOS allow for expertise and research resources to be shared among the its members, it will also allow us compare the impact of opioid use in each of the member’s countries, including Australia, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. These comparisons will allow us to draw lessons from those countries that have managed to avoid wide-scale opioid crises, and translate these lessons into practice in those countries where the effect of opioid over-prescribing are felt most deeply.
To learn more about CAOS team, visit: www.opioid-caos.org