Preoperative Pain Management: Is Tramadol a Safe Alternative
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Preoperative opioid use has been associated with worse clinical outcomes and higher rates of prolonged opioid use following lower extremity arthroplasty. Tramadol has been recommended for the management of osteoarthritis-related pain; however, outcomes following total hip arthroplasty (THA) in patients taking tramadol in the preoperative period have not been well described. The aim of this study is to examine the effect of preoperative tramadol use on postoperative outcomes in patients undergoing elective THA.

A total of 5304 patients who underwent primary THA for degenerative hip pathology from 2008 to 2014 were identified using the Humana Claims Database. Patients were grouped by preoperative pain management modality into 3 mutually exclusive populations including tramadol, traditional opioid, or nonopioid only. A multivariate logistic regression was used to evaluate all postsurgical outcomes of interest.

Tramadol users had an increased risk of developing prolonged narcotic use following surgery compared to nonopioid-only users. When compared to traditional opioid use, tramadol use was associated with decreased risk of subsequent 90-day minor medical complications, emergency department visits, and prolonged narcotic use. Traditional opioid use significantly increased length of stay by 0.20 days when compared to tramadol use.

Preoperative tramadol use is associated with prolonged opioid use following THA but is not associated with other postoperative complications. Patients taking tramadol preoperatively appear to have a lower risk of postoperative complications compared to patients taking traditional opioids preoperatively.