Treating acute pain in opioid-dependent patients — Review and recommendations
September 13, 2017 – As healthcare providers see more patients with opioid abuse and dependence, they face a difficult challenge: What's the best way to manage acute pain without contributing to the patient's opioid use disorder (OUD)? A review and recommendations for acute pain treatment in patients with OUD is presented in in the September/October Journal of Trauma Nursing, official publication of the Society of Trauma Nurses. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.
Coleen Dever, MSN, AGCNS-BC, CEN, TRCN, of Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del., advocates a "holistic, multimodal" approach to acute pain treatment in patients who are dependent on opioids. She believes that education–for healthcare providers as well as patients–is a key step in providing effective pain control in patients who have OUD or risk factors for opioid dependence.
Recommendations for Pain Treatment in Patients with Opioid Dependence or Addiction
The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with unprecedented rates of overdose, abuse, and addiction to prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin. "Pain and addiction often occur together," Coleen Dever writes. However, the nature of the association remains unclear: pain may lead to opioid use then addiction, or substance abuse may lead to pain syndromes. Adequate treatment of acute pain may play an essential role in preventing both chronic pain and opioid dependence.
Many patients with opioid dependence have chronic pain, which leads to changes in the physiological and emotional aspects of pain. Abnormal pain responses may develop both in patients with chronic pain (central sensitization) and opioid use (opioid-induced hyperalgesia).
Treating new acute pain in patients with OUD after traumatic injury poses special challenges. "Treatment for acute pain in the opioid-dependent patient is multifactorial, although there are no set guidelines to follow," Coleen Dever writes.
She outlines practical recommendations for acute pain management for patients with or at risk of OUD. Education can help nurses become more aware of attitudes and behaviors–including negative stereotypes about drug users–that may influence pain management and patients' experience of pain. Various screening tools have been developed to assess risk factors for developing OUD in individual patients.
The treatment plan for acute pain management must account for the patient's medical and psychological history, physical status, emotional stage, previous pain experience, and injury-related factors. Psychological tools for pain management include caring and respectful behaviors by healthcare practitioner. Measures such as relaxation/imagery techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce the need for pain medications.
Treatment should consider the range of multimodal medication options. Alternatives include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and certain types of antidepressant and anticonvulsant medications. Some patients with chronic pain may need to continue their long-acting pain medications while receiving additional medications to control acute pain.
"Whenever initiating opioid therapy, it is important to start at the lowest dose then titrate [adjust] appropriately, taking into consideration that pain is the experience of the patient and needs to be managed until effective pain control is obtained," Coleen Dever writes. "This does not mean elimination of pain entirely, but allowing pain to be manageable."
She emphasizes the need to assess possible risk of OUD before the patient is sent home, with continued monitoring of pain relief and medication use afterward. She adds, "There is great need for future research regarding safe prescribing of opioids at time of discharge from the acute care setting."
Click here to read "Treating Acute Pain in the Opiate-Dependent Patient."
Article: "Treating Acute Pain in the Opiate-Dependent Patient" (doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000309)
About Journal of Trauma Nursing
As the official publication of the Society of Trauma Nurses, the Journal of Trauma Nursing supports the STN's strategic goals of effective communication, education and patient advocacy with original, peer-reviewed, research and evidence-based articles and information that reflect the highest standard of collaborative care for trauma patients. The Journal of Trauma Nursing, through a commitment to editorial excellence, implements STN's vision to improve practice and patient outcomes and to become the premiere global nursing organization across the trauma continuum.
About The Society of Trauma Nurses
The Society of Trauma Nurses is a professional nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure optimal trauma care to all people locally, regionally, nationally and globally through initiatives focused on trauma nurses related to prevention, education and collaboration with other healthcare disciplines. The STN advocates for the highest level of quality trauma care across the continuum. We accomplish this through an environment that fosters visionary leadership, mentoring, innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration in the delivery of trauma care.
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