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AIMS: The increase in prescription opioid misuse and dependence is now a public health crisis in the UK. It is recognized as a whole-person problem that involves both the medical and the psychosocial needs of patients. Analyzing aspects of pathophysiology, emotional health, and social wellbeing associated with persistent opioid use after injury may inform safe and effective alleviation of pain while minimizing risk of misuse or dependence. Our objectives were to investigate patient factors associated with opioid use two to four weeks and six to nine months after an upper limb fracture. METHODS: A total of 734 patients recovering from an isolated upper limb fracture were recruited in this study. Opioid prescription was documented retrospectively for the period preceding the injury, and prospectively at the two- to four-week post-injury visit and six- to nine-month post-injury visit. Bivariate and multivariate analysis sought factors associated with opioid prescription from demographics, injury-specific data, Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Instrumentation System (PROMIS), Depression computer adaptive test (CAT), PROMIS Anxiety CAT, PROMIS Instrumental Support CAT, the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS), the Pain Self-efficacy Questionnaire (PSEQ-2), Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia (TSK-11), and measures that investigate levels of social support. RESULTS: A new prescription of opioids two to four weeks after injury was independently associated with less social support (odds ratio (OR) 0.26, p < 0.001), less instrumental support (OR 0.91, p < 0.001), and greater symptoms of anxiety (OR 1.1, p < 0.001). A new prescription of opioids six to nine months after injury was independently associated with less instrumental support (OR 0.9, p < 0.001) and greater symptoms of anxiety (OR 1.1, p < 0.001). CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that potentially modifiable psychosocial factors are associated with increased acute and chronic opioid prescriptions following upper limb fracture. Surgeons prescribing opioids for upper limb fractures should be made aware of the screening and management of emotional and social health. Cite this article: Bone Jt Open 2021;2(2):119-124.

Original publication




Journal article


Bone jt open

Publication Date





119 - 124


Instrumental support, Opioid use, Pain management, Social support, Trauma surgery, Upper extremity fracture