An observational study on the prevalence and pattern of opioid use in 25,479 patients with spine and radicular pain

Gilbert J. Fanciullo*, Perry A. Ball, Gisele Girault, Robert J. Rose, Brett Hanscom, James Neil Weinstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Study Design. A cross-sectional analysis of data obtained from patients with spinal and radicular pain and their spine center treating physicians was performed. Objectives. To identify characteristics of patients treated with opioids that distinguish them from similar patients not treated with opioids in a large population of patients with spine and radicular pain, and to determine the prevalence of opioid use. Summary of Background Data. The use of opioids with patients who have chronic pain remains controversial. The long-term risks and benefits are poorly described. The efficacy of this treatment has not been proved, yet the large majority of pain specialist physicians manage chronic pain with opioids. Methods. Descriptive data from the initial visits of 25,479 patients with spinal pain were reviewed. Patients were grouped according to whether or not opioids were recommended, prescribed, or continued. The prevalence of opioid use and patient characteristics were compared using standard statistical tests. Results. Overall, 3.4% of the patients had opioids included in their plan of care. There was no difference in age, gender, education, or compensation status between the two groups. Patients were more likely to be treated if the duration of their symptoms had been less than 3 months. However, 75% of patients with opioids in their plan had experienced symptoms longer than 3 months. A greater incidence of objective findings was identified in the opioid group. Conclusions. The authors cannot comment on the prevalence of opioid use because, to the best of their knowledge, no other similar studies are available for comparison.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-205
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2002


  • Back pain
  • Epidemiology
  • Opioids
  • Pain
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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