Current Issue - March/April 2020 - Vol 23 Issue 2


  1. 2020;23;E163-E174Continuation of Buprenorphine to Facilitate Postoperative Pain Management for Patients on Buprenorphine Opioid Agonist Therapy
    Systematic Review
    Disha Mehta, MD, Vinod Thomas, MSc, Jacinta Johnson, PhD, Brooke Scott, MLIS, Sandra Cortina, MD, and Landon Berger, MD.

BACKGROUND: Acute pain management in patients on buprenorphine opioid agonist therapy (BOAT) can be challenging. It is unclear whether BOAT should be continued or interrupted for optimization of postoperative pain control.

OBJECTIVES: To determine an evidence-based approach for pain management in patients on BOAT in the perioperative setting, particularly whether BOAT should be continued or interrupted with or without bridging to another mu opioid agonist and to identify benefits and harms of either perioperative strategy.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic literature review with qualitative data synthesis.

SETTING: Hospital, perioperative.

METHODS: The study protocol was registered on PROSPERO (Registration number 9030276355). Medline via OVID, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane CENTRAL register of trials were searched for prospective or retrospective observational or controlled studies, case series, and case reports that described perioperative or acute pain care for patients on BOAT. References of narrative and systematic reviews addressing acute pain management in patients on BOAT and references of included articles were hand-searched to identify additional original articles for inclusion. The full text of publications were reviewed for final inclusion, and data were extracted using a standardized data extraction form. Results were summarized qualitatively. Primary outcomes were postoperative pain intensity and total opioid use and identification of benefits and harms of perioperative strategies.

RESULTS: Eighteen publications presenting data on the perioperative management of patients on BOAT were identified: 10 case reports, 5 case series, and 3 retrospective cohort studies. Eleven articles reported continuation of BOAT, 2 concerned bridging BOAT, and 4 articles described stopping BOAT without planned bridging. In one retrospective cohort study, BOAT was continued in half and interrupted in half of patients. Patients on BOAT may have pain that is more difficult to treat than those who are not on OAT. There is no clear evidence that one particular strategy provides superior postoperative pain control, but interruption of BOAT may result in harm, including failure to return to baseline BOAT doses, continuing non-BOAT opioid use, or relapse of opioid use disorder.

LIMITATIONS: There were a limited number of articles relevant to the study question consisting of case reports and retrospective observational studies. Some omitted relevant details. No prospective studies were found.

CONCLUSIONS: There is no clear benefit to bridging or stopping BOAT but failure to restart it may pose concerns for relapse. We recommend continuing BOAT in the perioperative period when possible and incorporating an interdisciplinary approach with multimodal analgesia.

KEY WORDS: Opioid use disorder, opiate substitution treatment, buprenorphine, buprenorphine-naloxone, buprenorphine opioid agonist therapy, postoperative pain, acute pain, multimodal analgesia