One-fifth of patients who undergo surgery for orthopedic trauma, including broken bones, visit multiple doctors for painkiller prescriptions, according to a new study.
The findings suggest doctors are not consulting with one another about the pain needs of their patients, says lead author Dr. Brent Morris. "There needs to be coordination if additional pain medications are needed," he told HealthDay. "Patients should not be receiving multiple narcotic pain medication prescriptions from multiple providers without coordinating with their treating surgeon."
The researchers studied the medical and pharmacy records of 130 patients who were treated for orthopedic trauma at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
They found patients with a high school degree or less were 3.2 times more likely to try to obtain prescriptions from more than one doctor, compared to patients with more education.
Those who had previously used narcotic painkillers were 4.5 times more likely to doctor-shop, the researchers report in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
Most of the doctor shoppers used narcotic painkillers for about 3.5 months after surgery, compared to one month for patients who received painkillers from just one doctor. Doctor shoppers obtained a median of seven narcotic prescriptions, compared to two prescriptions for patients visiting one doctor.
"Our study highlights the importance of counseling patients in the postoperative period, and that it is important to work together to establish reasonable expectations for pain control as part of treatment plan discussions and follow-up visits," Dr. Morris said in a news release.