Advil, Motril, Other Popular Pain Meds May Slow Gastrointestinal Healing: Study

New research suggests that side effects of popular pain medications, such as Advil or Motrin, may prevent healing following gastrointestinal surgery, leading to potential complications. 

Researchers from Washington state found patients who began taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), including Advil, Motrin, and Aleve, after certain surgeries had a 24% increased risk of experiencing an anastomic leak at the surgical junction.

The retrospective cohort study was published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery on January 21, evaluating data on more than 13,000 patients undergoing bariatric or colorectal surgery at 47 hospitals in Washington State. The patients underwent surgical procedures from January 1, 2006, to December 31, 2010.

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About 24% of the patients received NSAIDS within 24-hours after surgery. Researchers found the 90-day rate of gastrointestinal leaks after surgery was 4.3% for all patients in the NSAID group, people who received pain medications, including Aleve or Motrin.

However, the rate was more significant for patients undergoing nonelective colorectal surgery. In that group, the risk was 12.3% in the NSAID group, compared to 8.3% in the group that did not receive drugs like Advil after surgery.

A leak was defined as a complication or an area requiring re-operation, rescue stoma, revision of an anastomosis or percutaneous drainage of an abscess.

Those who received NSAIDS, like Aleve or Motrin, were younger, had lower levels of coexisting illnesses, lower cardiac risk index and had elective procedures more frequently than those patients who did not receive NSAIDS.

Taking NSAIDS increased a person’s risk of suffering a venous thromboembolism event (VTE), pulmonary embolism, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) by more than 80%. NSAIDS are among the best-selling over-the-counter pain killers in the U.S. and are used widely for a variety of reasons.

“The results of this large statewide cohort study show that, among patients undergoing nonelective colorectal resection, postoperative NSAID administration is associated with a significantly increased risk for anastomotic complications,” study authors concluded. “Given that other analgesic regimens are effective and well tolerated, these data may be enough for some surgeons to alter practice patterns.”

Concerns over NSAID Side Effects

NSAIDS, including drugs like Advil and Motrin, are a broad class of drugs often used to treat many types of back pain and neck pain or to relieve inflammation.

The findings of the new study add to a growing body of evidence from other studies revealing additional serious risks from using products, like Advil and Aleve.

Research published last year in the journal BMJ Open revealed using Advil or Motrin for a headache increased a person’s risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm, or atrial fibrillation. The use of these popular over-the-counter drugs increased a person’s risk of atrial fibrillation by 84%.

A study published late last year by researchers from Columbia University revealed using common NSAIDS, including Advil and Motrin, increased the risk suffering serious potentially life threatening blood clots.

Another study from Denmark published last year linked taking NSAIDS, like Motrin and Advil, to increased bleeding problems if the patient was already taking anticoagulants, such as Xarelto.

The combination of blood thinners like Xarelto, prescribed regularly for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, along with NSAIDS, increased a patient’s risk of suffering a severe bleeding event.


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