Opioid limits didn’t change surgery patients’ experience, study shows

Oct. 13, 2023
Five-day limit from Michigan’s largest insurance company didn’t lead to increases in patients’ pain levels or decrease in satisfaction after common surgical procedures.

Worries that surgery patients would have a tougher recovery if their doctors had to abide by a five-day limit on opioid pain medication prescriptions didn’t play out as expected, a new study finds.

Instead, patient-reported pain levels and satisfaction didn’t change at all for Michigan adults who had their appendix or gallbladder removed, a hernia repaired, a hysterectomy or other common operations after the state’s largest insurer put the limit in place, the study shows.

At the same time, the amount of opioid pain medication patients covered by that insurer received dropped immediately after the limit went into effect. On average, patients having these operations received about three fewer opioid-containing pills.

The study, which merges two statewide databases on patients covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), is one of the first large studies to evaluate whether opioid prescribing limits change patient experience after surgery.

It’s published in JAMA Health Forum by a team from Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center.

University of Michigan release on Newswise