The Danger of Narcotics After Joint Replacement

By ProOrtho on
- Posted in: News

Even patients with severe debilitating arthritis are afraid of joint replacement — and what they fear most is the pain of the surgery, the need to use narcotics and the complications related to narcotics.

Opiate-related problems such as nausea, constipation, confusion and breathing problems complications leading to readmissions and death are devastating for patient and surgeon alike. Fortunately, minimally invasive techniques, modern pain management and the SwiftPath Program are greatly reducing need for narcotics.

Easily the most devastating opiate-related adverse event is much more pervasive and occult: narcotic diversion and the related cases of addiction. In a recent SwiftPath sponsored community event, providers joined community members to increase public awareness on issues of pain management after major surgery and narcotic diversion.  Dr. Craig McAllister, CMO of SwiftPath, addressed how minimally invasive surgical techniques and modern pain management decrease the need for narcotics.  He also pointed out that, “Each year, more than 70 million post-surgical patients are given a prescription for opioids. Many heroin users turned to the drug after first experimenting with properly written prescription painkillers. This problem has caught the attention of our national policy makers, and surgeons need to pay attention as well.

Michael Roberts was also on hand for the community event. He and Kristin Bretthauer experienced the pain of opiate diversion first hand. They lost their daughter, Amber, on June 28, 2015, at the age of 19 from a heroin overdose after trying it for the first time in February 2015.  Michael Roberts is now committed to educating the public on the problems of physician prescriptions and narcotic diversion through his non-profit Amber’s H.O.P.E.  He joined Officer Robert King and addressed the audience.

Officer King is a police officer in Kirkland, WA, assigned as a school resource officer where he works directly with students, other school resource officers, and high school administrations to focus on prevention. Officer King emphasized that Amber Roberts’ story is not an isolated event and that the same thing is happening to “good kids in our own communities.”

“I get verified local and national information and training and the issues that we’re dealing with in Kirkland are issues that are nationwide,” he said.  Teenagers want to have fun and are working to find their own identity; they are curious and want to experiment. [Their] friends are doing it. Everybody’s doing it. They’re getting bombarded and flooded with messages about doing this recreationally, partying and having fun,” said Officer King.

Surgeons naturally prescribe narcotics for joint replacement patients.  Joint replacement surgeons do not want patients to suffer and respect the importance of properly used narcotic analgesics. But, MIS techniques for hip and knee replacement, modern pain management, long-acting periarticular injections and the SwiftPath Method for early recovery are clearly decreasing the need for narcotics,” said Dr. McAllister.

Officer King ended the meeting by making a simple plea. “I would like [narcotics] to be very well cared for and regulated. If you have a gun safe or jewelry safe and someplace where you lock stuff up, that’s really where (narcotics) belongs. At the end of my shift, my gun gets locked up, because in the wrong hands, it could hurt somebody. Your narcotics in the wrong hands has hurt somebody, has killed somebody…my plea to you and everybody listening to this would be to treat that like a gun, treat it like a firearm, treat it like something that’s dangerous, that’s deadly because it is and it can be.”

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