A Practical Approach for the Management of the Mixed Opioid Agonist-Antagonist Buprenorphine During Acute Pain and Surgery

Nafisseh S Warner, Matthew A Warner, Julie L Cunningham, Halena M Gazelka, W Michael Hooten, Bhanu Prakash Kolla, David O Warner
Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2020, 95 (6): 1253-1267
The use of buprenorphine, a mixed opioid agonist-antagonist, for the management of chronic pain and/or opioid use disorder is increasing. As such, medical providers will more frequently encounter patients on this therapy. In this paper, we synthesize existing knowledge (derived through keyword searches using MEDLINE databases) in a novel conceptual framework for patients on buprenorphine presenting with acute pain or for those requiring surgical or invasive procedures. This framework is based on three unique domains: the patient, the features of the acute pain insult, and the environment. We discuss important considerations regarding the unique aspects of buprenorphine formulations and dosing, and we describe the importance of multidisciplinary planning and multimodal analgesic strategies. We also highlight important differences in management strategies based upon the presence or absence of opioid use disorder. All medical providers must be prepared to guide the patient on buprenorphine safely through the acute care episode, which includes adequate treatment of acute pain and avoidance of iatrogenic harm, including both short-term complications (eg, respiratory depression) and long-term complications (eg, relapse to opioid use).

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