Recently published results from a study carried out in 2020 suggests cannabis users may experience more pain post-surgery than those who don’t.
The findings, presented at the Anesthesiology 2022 annual meeting, are based on analysis of the records of 34,521 adult patients who had undergone elective surgeries at Cleveland Clinic from January 2010 to December 2020. 1,681 of these patients were classified as cannabis users, having used it within 30 days before surgery.
The cannabis users reportedly experienced 14% more pain during the first 24 hours after surgery compared to those who have never used it. Furthermore, patients who used cannabis consumed 7% more opioids after surgery – this finding was noted as not statistically significant, but likely clinically relevant.
Elyad Ekrami, M.D., lead author of the study and clinical research fellow of the Outcomes Research Department at Cleveland Clinic’s Anesthesiology Institute, said the association between cannabis use, pain scores and opioid consumption had been reported before in smaller studies, but indicated conflicting results.
“Our study has a much larger sample size and does not include patients with chronic pain diagnosis or those who received regional anesthesia, which would have seriously conflicted our results,” he said.
As is always the case with these sorts of investigations into various aspects of cannabis use, Dr. Ekrami said further research is needed; but that:
“Physicians should consider that patients using cannabis may have more pain and require slightly higher doses of opioids after surgery, emphasizing the need to continue exploring a multimodal approach to post-surgical pain control.”
On the flip-side of all this are various studies suggesting cannabis can also relieve pain after major surgery. Way back in 2006 (and there has been other research since), a study carried out by Imperial College, London, and the Medical Research Council, indicated a single oral dose of cannabis plant extract containing THC and CBD could be beneficial.
At the time, Professor Mervyn Maze reportedly stated:
“We thought cannabis might be beneficial in helping manage pain following surgery, as previous research indicated cannabinoids help ‘top up’ the body’s natural system for reducing pain sensation. This research proves it can be effective, with minimal side effects at low doses”.
However, one of the exclusion criteria in the research was reported cannabis use in the 6 weeks before surgery.
Findings from that study were published in the journal Anesthesiology.