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Role of patient-based health status outcome measurements in opioid management for low back pain

Vinod K. Podichetty, MD, MS, Eric S. Varley, DO, Michelle Secic, MS


Objective: The aim of the study was to identify patient factors that correlate with a strong response to opioid pain medications in low back pain patients.
Design: Prospective analysis.
Setting: Tertiary Institutional Spine Care Center.
Patients, Participants: All patients visiting a tertiary referral spine center with primary diagnosis of low back pain (n = 486) and minimum duration of 6 months.
Interventions: Opioid medication.
Main Outcome Measures: Analysis factors included visual analog pain scale (VAS), symptom relief scores, and results on 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36). A longitudinal descriptive analysis and a multivariable logistic regression were performed on the results of the VAS and SF-36 scores.
Results: The average age of opioid and nonopioid treated patients was 62 years versus 64 years, (p = 0.13) and gender distributions at 53 percent versus 50 percent female (p = 0.43). SF-36 scores were statistically significant and associated with the opioid categorization. For every unit increase in symptom relief score, the likelihood of opioid use is doubled (OR = 2.1, 95 percent CI = 1.5-2.8, p < 0.001); and increased by 25 percent with each 10-point decrease in the social functioning quality of life score (OR = 0.98, 95 percent CI = 0.96-0.99, p = 0.006).
Conclusions: Social quality of life and symptom relief measurements comprise the optimal set of independent factors that correlate most strongly with a response to opioid use in low back pain patients.


patient satisfaction, back pain, opioids, prescription medication, low back pain

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