Use of Opioids in the Early Postoperative Period After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair: A Systematic Review

William H. Davis*, Alexis B. Sandler, John P. Scanaliato, John C. Dunn, Nata Parnes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Postoperative treatment plans after orthopaedic procedures frequently include opioids for pain relief. Purpose: To evaluate opioid use in the early postoperative phase after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair (ARCR) to develop a procedure-specific understanding of the current role of opioids in pain management for this procedure. Study Design: Systematic review; Level of evidence, 4. Methods: A PubMed search was used to identify eligible studies. Data on patient demographics, visual analog scale pain scores, and opioid use patterns (in morphine milligram equivalents [MMEs]) were collected and assessed. Cumulative MMEs were reported on postoperative day (POD) zero, and mean MMEs were reported on subsequent PODs (days 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 14). Metaregression, I2 indices, and Cochran Q tests were used to evaluate study variation, heterogeneity, and variance. Results: A total of 1487 patients in 22 studies were included in the analysis. An estimated 51% (95% CI, 31%-70%) of patients with nerve blocks (NBs) were opioid-free through POD-0 versus 40% (95% CI, 1.2%-97%) of patients without NBs, which increased to 65% (95% CI, 55%-74%) versus 25% (95% CI, 1.7%-86%) by POD-1. Opioid requirements were highest in the first 72 hours after ARCR. NB use reduced opioid requirement on POD-0 compared with no NB use (15.8 vs 45.0 MMEs, respectively; P <.001) but did not reduce requirements after that. In addition, NB use led to a statistically significant increase in opioid requirements on POD-7 (28.6 vs 9.5 MMEs, respectively; P <.001). Using a model that assumes stable opioid requirements between our time points, weighted mean cumulative opioid consumption was 163 MMEs in the first week and 273 MMEs in the first 2 weeks (150 and 287 MMEs in patients with NB; 180 and 261 MMEs in patients without NB, respectively). Conclusion: Opioid use is relatively common in the early postoperative period after ARCR. Pain scores and opioid requirements may spike on POD-1; however, patients should be educated and reassured that they will gradually decrease usage over the initial 2-week postoperative period.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • opioid
  • orthopaedics
  • pain
  • rotator cuff
  • surgery


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