Treating Perioperative and Acute Pain in Patients on Buprenorphine: Narrative Literature Review and Practice Recommendations

Megan Buresh, Jessica Ratner, Aleksandra Zgierska, Vitaly Gordin, Anika Alvanzo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Opioid use disorder (OUD), a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the USA, can be effectively treated with buprenorphine. However, the same pharmacologic properties (e.g., high affinity, partial agonism, long half-life) that make it ideal as a treatment for OUD often cause concern among clinicians that buprenorphine will prevent effective management of acute pain with full agonist opioid analgesics. Because of this concern, many patients are asked to stop buprenorphine preoperatively or at the onset of acute pain, placing them at high risk for both relapse and a difficult transition back to buprenorphine after acute pain has resolved. The purpose of this review is to summarize the existing literature for acute pain and perioperative management in patients treated with buprenorphine for OUD and to provide practical management recommendations for generalist practitioners based on evidence and clinical experience. In short, evidence suggests that sufficient analgesia can be achieved with maintenance of buprenorphine and use of both opioid and non-opioid analgesic options for breakthrough pain. We recommend that clinicians (1) continue buprenorphine in the perioperative or acute pain period for patients with OUD; (2) use a multi-modal analgesic approach; (3) pay attention to care coordination and discharge planning when making an analgesic plan for patients with OUD treated with buprenorphine; and (4) use an individualized approach founded upon shared decision-making. Clinical examples involving mild and severe pain are discussed to highlight important management principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3635-3643
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • acute pain
  • buprenorphine
  • opioid use disorder
  • perioperative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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