Morpheus and the Underworld—Interventions to Reduce the Risks of Opioid Use After Surgery: ORADEs, Dependence, Cancer Progression, and Anastomotic Leakage

  • Robert Beaumont WilsonEmail author
Review Article



Perioperative pain management is a key element of enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) programs. A multimodal approach to analgesia as part of a coordinated ERAS includes the reduction of opioid use. This review aims to discuss opioid-related adverse events, strategies to reduce opioid use after surgery, and the relevance to the present “opioid crisis” in North America.


A literature review of the pharmacology of opioid drugs, perioperative opioid reduction strategies, and the potential public health benefit was performed. This included current ERAS guidelines on multimodal analgesia, randomized controlled trials on perioperative analgesia, and intervention studies to decrease opioid use, misuse, and diversion in North America.


Reduction of perioperative opioid usage has been endorsed by joint clinical practice guidelines on the management of postoperative pain from the American Pain Society, the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Interventions as part of an “opioid bundle” that can be incorporated into ERAS protocols include multimodal analgesia, regional anesthesia, opioid sparing drugs, carbon dioxide humidification during laparoscopy, changing opioid prescription practices, patient and physician education, and proper disposal of unused opioid medications.


There are substantial benefits in incorporating opioid reduction strategies into ERAS and clinical practice guidelines. These include faster return of function and mobility, and decreased opioid-related adverse drug events (ORADEs), postoperative morbidity and mortality, and length of hospital stay. Improved oncological outcomes after cancer surgery may be an additional benefit. Evidence-based interventions can also reduce opioid abuse and diversion in the community.


Morphine Opioids Analgesia Perioperative Dependence ERAS 


Author Contribution

Robert B. Wilson conceived, researched, wrote, and prepared the review, manuscript, and references.


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Copyright information

© The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Upper Gastrointestinal SurgeryLiverpool HospitalSydneyAustralia

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