Military Veterans’ Perspectives on Postoperative Opioid Use: A Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data

Published:January 10, 2023DOI:



      This qualitative analysis of interviews with surgical patients who received a brief perioperative psychological intervention, in conjunction with standard medical perioperative care, elucidates patient perspectives on the use of pain self-management skills in relation to postoperative analgesics.


      This study is a secondary analysis of qualitative data from a randomized controlled trial.


      Participants (N = 21) were rural-dwelling United States Military Veterans from a mixed surgical sample who were randomized to receive a manual-based, telephone-based Perioperative Pain Self-management intervention consisting of a total of four pre- and postoperative contacts. Semi-structured qualitative interviews elicited participant feedback on the cognitive-behavioral intervention. Data was analyzed by two qualitative experts using MAXQDA software. Key word analyses focused on mention of analgesics in interviews.


      Interviews revealed a dominant theme of ambivalence towards postoperative use of opioids. An additional theme concerned the varied ways acquiring pain self-management skills impacted postoperative opioid (and non-opioid analgesic) consumption. Participants reported that employment of pain self-management strategies reduced reliance on pharmacology for pain relief, prolonged the time between doses, took the “edge off” pain, and increased pain management self-efficacy.


      Perioperative patient education may benefit from inclusion of teaching non-pharmacologic pain self-management skills and collaborative planning with patients regarding how to use these skills in conjunction with opioid and non-opioid analgesics. Perianesthesia nurses may be in a critical position to provide interdisciplinary postoperative patient education that may optimize postoperative pain management while minimizing risks associated with prolonged opioid use.


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