Educating Patients Regarding Pain Management and Safe Opioid Use After Surgery

A Narrative Review

Bradley H. Lee, MD; Christopher L. Wu, MD


Anesth Analg. 2020;130(3):574-581. 

In This Article

Cultural Perspectives and Future Research

The United States consumes 80% of the world's opioid supply which is a shockingly disproportionate amount relative to its population.[3,4] This is likely due at least in part to the cultural perspectives and expectations surrounding pain management and opioid use which is evident when comparing the United States to other countries. Compared to physicians in Japan, for example, US physicians are much more likely to believe that opioids are indicated for acute pain, and US physicians attribute this largely to standards of care for managing acute pain as well as legal expectations.[89] In the Netherlands, only 6% of patients were discharged with opioids after ankle fracture treatment compared with 82% in the United States, and Dutch patients relied instead on prescribed nonopioid analgesics such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs.[90]

Improving the education that patients receive related to postoperative pain management may promote a cultural shift and influence attitudes toward opioid use. In the future, areas of research addressing issues such as content, timing, and delivery of information should be explored to identify how to optimally equip patients with knowledge that will affect attitudes and behaviors related to postoperative opioid use. As education progresses, hopefully, there will be a change in perspectives related to opioids that will help reduce the prevalence of these medications.