Postsurgical Opioid Use Among Veterans Discharged to Skilled Care Facilities Compared to Veterans Discharged to Home After Orthopedic Surgery

Published:November 24, 2022DOI:



      To compare opioid use patterns among Veterans who were discharged to a skilled care facility vs home after orthopedic surgery at a VA hospital.


      We conducted a retrospective cohort study of Veterans who had orthopedic surgery at the XXXX between January 2018 and December 2021 and were followed by a transitional pain service. The principal outcome of interest was the time to stop opioid use after discharge from the hospital.

      Setting and Participants

      Veterans not already on chronic opioid therapy who had orthopedic surgery at the XXXX and were followed by a transitional pain service.


      448 patients were included in the study, of which 371 (83%) were discharged to home and 77 (17%) were discharged to a skilled care facility. Median days to opioid cessation were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method with 95% CIs and compared with discharge disposition using a log-rank test. Time to opioid cessation following hospital discharge was compared to baseline characteristics using univariable and multivariable Cox proportional hazards models.


      Patients who were discharged to a skilled care facility used opioids for twice as long as those who were discharged home [median days (interquartile range)]: 22 (19, 26) vs 11 (10, 12), P < .001, respectively. When controlling for baseline characteristics in the multivariable analysis, discharge to a skilled care facility was significantly associated with continued opioid use at all time points [hazard ratio 0.63 (95% CI 0.44, 0.89), P = .009].

      Conclusions and Implications

      Veterans discharged to a skilled care facility after orthopedic surgery used opioids for twice as long as those who were discharged to home. As postsurgical pain management guidelines change to focus on nonopioid pain modalities and opioid reduction, skilled care providers should adapt those strategies for their facilities.


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