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Preoperative Narcotic Use as a Predictor of Clinical Outcome: Results Following Anterior Cervical Arthrodesis

Scientific Paper

Lawrence JT1, London NBohlman HHChin KR.

Interested medical professionals can read the full paper, as published in Spine, here.


Prognostic Study, Level II (Retrospective review of prospectively collected data).


To identify an association between preoperative narcotic use and clinical outcome after cervical arthrodesis.


Little data exists regarding the influence that chronic preoperative narcotic use has on clinical outcomes after surgery. Cervical arthrodesis is a common procedure that has a predictably high success rate for relief of radicular pain. In addition, the patient population presenting for this procedure has a high propensity for preoperative narcotic use.


Charts and prospectively collected questionnaires concerning the use of pain medication from 91 consecutive patients who underwent cervical arthrodesis for relief of radicular pain by a single surgeon at a single institution were reviewed. Group I consisted of 47 patients who took narcotic pain medication for their radicular pain on a daily basis for greater than 6 months before surgery. Group II consisted of 44 patients who were not on narcotics chronically before surgery. Postoperative narcotic use and patient outcome based on the modified Robinson criteria were assessed. Patients were observed for a minimum of 2 years.


Of the group I patients, 16 (34%) continued to require chronic narcotic pain medication up to 2 years after surgery whereas only 3 (7%) of the group II patients required narcotic pain medication past 3 months (P = 0.002). Of the group I patients, 24 (51%) had a good or excellent result after surgery and 15 (32%) had a poor result whereas 38 (86%) of the group II patients had a good or excellent result and no patient had a poor result (P < 0.001).


Chronic narcotic use before cervical arthrodesis was found to be associated with continued narcotic use after surgery and worse functional outcomes following surgery. While further studies will be necessary to ascertain if this relationship is generalizable to other orthopaedic procedures and to analyze for potential confounding variables, surgeons may want to counsel their patients about the potential for inferior clinical outcomes if narcotics are used before surgery.


Dr. Kingsley R. Chin, Founder of philosophy and practice of The LES Society and The LESS Institute

Dr. Kingsley R. Chin is a board certified Harvard-trained orthopedic spine surgeon and professor with copious business and information technology exposure. He sees a niche opportunity where medicine, business and info. tech meet – and is uniquely educated at the intersection of these three professions. He has experience as Professor of Clinical Biomedical Sciences & Admissions Committee Member at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Visiting Spine Surgeon & Professor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Biomedical Studies at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Learn more about Dr. Chin here and connect via LinkedIn.


Less Exposure Surgery (LES) is based on a new philosophy of performing surgery, leading the charge to prove through bench and clinical outcomes research that LES treatment options are the best solutions – to lowering the cost of healthcare, improving outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction. Learn more at LESSociety.org.

The LES Society philosophy: “Tailor treatment to the individual aiding in the quickest recovery and return to a pain-free lifestyle, using LES® techniques that lessen exposure, preserve unoffending anatomy and utilize new technologies which are safe, easy to adopt and reproducible. These LES®techniques lessen blood loss, surgical time and exposure to radiation and can be safely performed in an outpatient center. Less is more.” – Kingsley R. Chin, MD


The LESS Institute is the world leader center of excellence in Less Exposure Surgery. Our safe, effective outpatient treatments help patients recover quickly, avoid expensive hospital stays and return home to their family the same day. Watch our patient stories, follow us on Facebook and visit TheLESSInstitute.com to learn more.


The above study utilized LES Technology from SpineFrontier – leading provider of LES Technologies and instruments – offering surgeons and patients superior technology and services.



Lawrence JT1, London NBohlman HHChin KR.

Author information

  1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

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