BACKGROUND: An increasing number of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) are treated with opioid agonist-antagonists such as buprenorphine/naloxone. Perioperative management of patients on buprenorphine/naloxone is inconsistent and remains a controversial topic with mismanagement posing a significant risk to the long-term health of these patients.
METHODS: We performed a systematic literature search involving Medline, Medline In-Process, Embase, Cochrane Central, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PsycINFO, Web of Science (Clarivate), Scopus (Elsevier), CINAHL (EbscoHosst), and PubMed (NLM).
RESULTS: Eighteen studies were included in the final sample, including one controlled study and four observational studies . Neither the controlled study nor the observational studies assessed addiction treatment retention, harm reduction, or long-term mortality rates as primary or secondary outcomes. Of the observational studies, authors showed equivalent peri- and postoperative pain control among buprenorphine continued patients. All but one authors described adequate analgesia among the case reports in which buprenorphine = 16 mg sublingually (SL) daily was continued during the perioperative period. Long-term harm reduction was not reported with only three case reports including any long-term abstinence or relapse rates.
CONCLUSIONS: The current understanding of the risks and benefits of continuing or stopping buprenorphine perioperatively is limited by a lack of high-quality evidence. Observational studies and case reports indicate no evidence against continuing buprenorphine perioperatively, especially when the dose is < 16 mg SL daily. In patients with significant potential for relapse, such as those with a recent history of OUD, the discontinuation of buprenorphine should have a strong rationale supported by patient and surgical preferences. Future studies require standardized reporting of median doses, details on the route of delivery, dosing schedules and any dosing changes, and rates of addiction relapse, including long-term morbidity and mortality where possible.
As a general surgeon, I find this paper very interesting and helpful as pain management for our patients is increasingly becoming more of a challenge, especially in view of the opioid crisis.