Approximately 550,000 Americans experience vertebral fracture annually, and most receive opioids to treat the resulting pain. Kyphoplasty of the fractured vertebra is a procedural alternative that may mitigate risks of even short-term opioid use. While reports of kyphoplasty’s impact on pain scores are mixed, no large-scale data exist regarding opioid prescribing before and after the procedure. This study was conducted to determine whether timing of kyphoplasty following vertebral fracture is associated with duration or intensity of opioid prescribing.
This retrospective cohort study used 2001–2014 insurance claims data from a single, large private insurer in the US across multiple care settings. Patients were adults with vertebral fractures who were prescribed opioids and underwent balloon-assisted kyphoplasty within 4 months of fracture. Opioid overdose risk was stratified by prescribed average daily morphine milligram equivalents using CDC guidelines. Filled prescriptions and risk categories were evaluated at baseline and 90 days following kyphoplasty.
Inclusion criteria were met by 7119 patients (median age 77 years, 71.7% female). Among included patients, 3505 (49.2%) were opioid naïve before fracture. Of these patients, 31.1% had new persistent opioid prescribing beyond 90 days after kyphoplasty, and multivariable logistic regression identified kyphoplasty after 8 weeks as a predictor (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.02–1.76). For patients previously receiving opioids, kyphoplasty > 4 weeks after fracture was associated with persistently elevated prescribing risk (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.23–2.74).
New persistent opioid prescribing occurred in nearly one-third of patients undergoing kyphoplasty after vertebral fracture, although early treatment was associated with a reduction in this risk. For patients not naïve to opioids before fracture diagnosis, early kyphoplasty was associated with less persistent elevation of opioid overdose risk. Subsequent trials must compare opioid use by vertebral fracture patients treated via operative (kyphoplasty) and nonoperative (ongoing opioid) strategies before concluding that kyphoplasty lacks value, and early referral for kyphoplasty may be appropriate to avoid missing a window of efficacy.