Many Take Painkillers for Months After Knee and Hip Replacements

January 27, 2017 in STSMPT

A recent study finds many knee and hip replacements patients continue to take powerful prescription painkillers months after their surgery. The findings are a concern because of the rising rates of opioid addiction and overdoses in the United States.


Study authors analyzed data from 574 knee or hip replacement patients. Taking the painkillers before joint replacement surgery is a strong predictor of long-term opioid use. Approximately 30 percent of the participants were taking opioids before the surgery. Among this group, 53 percent of knee patients and 35 percent of hip patients were continuing to take the drugs six months post surgery. In addition, some of the participants became chronic users after their surgery. Among patients who did not take opioids before surgery, 8 percent of knee patients and 4 percent of hip patients were still using the painkillers six months after surgery.1


Common opioid painkillers include OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. Among patients age 15 to 64 receiving opioids for chronic, non-cancer pain, one in 550 die from an opioid-related overdose at a median of 2.6 years from their first prescription. That risk of death from overdose increases to one in 32 patients when the prescription is greater than 200 morphine milligram equivalents.2 Multiply this risk by the estimate that 20% of patients with non-cancer pain symptoms receive an opioid prescription,3 and it is easy to see how pain medication misuse and overdoses lead to 420,000 emergency department visits and 33,000 deaths per year.4,5


Be sure to discuss all medication usage before, during, and after your procedure with your doctor. Ask about plans to end the use of pain medicine and about non-pharmacological approaches for your recovery. Physical therapy has proven helpful both before and after joint replacement surgery. Give us a call today if you are scheduled for or have recently had knee or hip replacement surgery. We can help get you back on your feet safely and effectively.



  1. Goesling J, Moser S, Zaidi B, et al. Trends and predictors of opioid use after total knee and total hip arthroplasty. Pain, June 2016; 157 (6): 1259-1265.
  2. Kaplovitch E, Gomes T, Camacho X, et al. Sex differences in dose escalation and overdose death during chronic opioid therapy: a population-based cohort study. PLoS One. 2015; 10: e0134550.
  3. Daubresse M, Chang H, Yu Y, et al. Ambulatory diagnosis and treatment of nonmalignant pain in the United States. 2000-2010. Med Care. 2013; 51: 870-8.
  4. Multiple cause of death data on CDC WONDER. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Hu-man Services, CDC; 2016. Accessible at
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. The DAWN report: highlights of the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) findings on drug-related emergency department visits. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Ad-ministration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality; 2013.
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