There is increasing concern about opioid use as a pain treatment option among older adults. Existing literature implies an association between opioid use and fracture, increasing the risk of death and disabilities; yet, this relationship with other fall-related outcomes has not been fully explored. We performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the associations between opioid use and adverse health outcomes of falls, fall injuries, and fractures among older adults.
A systematic literature search was conducted using nine databases: Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsycInfo, Global Health, Northern Light Sciences Conference Abstracts, Cochrane CENTRAL, WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and ClinicalTrials.gov. We log-transformed effect sizes (relative risk [RR], odds ratio [OR], and hazard ratio [HR]) to compute pooled risk estimates comparable across the studies. The random-effects model was applied to calculate the pooled risk estimates due to heterogeneity. Meta-regressions explored differences in risk estimates by analysis method, study design, setting, and study quality.
Thirty studies, providing 34 relevant effect sizes, met the inclusion criteria for this meta-analysis. Overall, opioid use was significantly associated with falls, fall injuries, and fractures, with effect sizes ranging from 0.15 to 0.71. In meta-regressions, no selected factors explained heterogeneity.
While heterogeneity is present, results suggest an increased risk of falls, fall injuries, and fractures among older adults who used opioids. Findings highlight the need for opioid education and nonopioid-related pain management interventions among older adults to decrease fall-related risk.