Opioid-induced hyperalgesia, a paradoxical increase in pain sensitivity associated with ongoing opioid use, may worsen the postoperative pain experience. This pilot study examined the effect of chronic opioid use on pain responses in patients undergoing a standardized dental surgery.


Experimental and subjective pain responses were compared prior to and immediately following planned multiple tooth extractions between patients with chronic pain on opioid therapy (≥30 mg morphine equivalents/d) and opioid-naïve patients without chronic pain matched on sex, race, age, and degree of surgical trauma.


Preoperatively, chronic opioid users rated experimental pain as more severe and appreciated less central modulation of that pain than did opioid-naïve participants. Postoperatively, chronic opioid-using patients rated their pain as more severe during the first 48 hours and used almost twice as many postoperative analgesic doses during the first 72 hours as the opioid-naïve controls.


These data suggest that patients with chronic pain taking opioids approach surgical interventions with heightened pain sensitivity and have a more severe postoperative pain experience, providing evidence that their complaints of postoperative pain should be taken seriously and managed appropriately.

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