One of the most common knee injuries is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. These injuries are common because they can be caused by any sudden movement like; stopping quickly, landing from a jump or changing direction suddenly. And while this a common injury, it still generally needs to be repaired with surgery and the patient is oftentimes in a lot of pain before and after the procedure. In order to make the patient more comfortable, doctors are likely to prescribe painkillers before the surgery to handle the pain from the ACL tear.
However, new research suggests that consuming painkillers before an ACL surgery could be very dangerous to the patient, as it greatly increases their chances of developing an addiction to painkillers. Researchers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics released a study stating that patients who receive painkillers before an ACL surgery are ten times more likely to be on painkillers longer than patients who were not given painkillers before their surgery. And when it comes to painkillers, the length of time a patient uses the medication is extremely important. The longer a patient uses painkiller the more likely they are to develop a physical and mental addiction to the dangerous drugs.
The researchers gathered information from, 4,946 ACL repair cases in order to come up with their findings. While most of the patients healed nicely after their surgeries, not requiring painkillers three months after the procedure, seven percent of the patients were still filling painkiller prescriptions. These seven percent had a much higher rate of pre-operation painkiller use. And younger people are more likely to fall victim to this increased painkiller usage than older people, according to the study.
The study could provide doctors insight as to how dependent the body can become on opioids and may prevent further addiction cases.
“With the ever-increasing opioid epidemic our nation is facing, understanding the risk factors for postoperative narcotic use could aid surgeons and healthcare systems in identifying patients who could benefit from a different pain management and counselling regimen than previously identified,” explained Chris Anthony, co-author of the study.