Opioid Management in CKD

Emily Lu, Jane O. Schell, Holly M. Koncicki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) experience a high pain and symptom burden. Concurrently, opioid prescription and use in patients with CKD continues to increase, leading to concern for opioid-related risks. Nephrologists increasingly face challenging clinical situations requiring further evaluation and treatment of pain, for which opioid use may be indicated. However, nephrologists are not commonly trained in pain management and may find it difficult to compile the necessary information and tools to effectively assess and treat potentially multidimensional pain. In these situations, they may benefit from using an evidence-based stepwise approach proposed in this article. We address current approaches to opioid use for pain management in CKD and offer a stepwise approach to individualized opioid assessment, focusing on kidney-specific concerns. This includes thorough evaluation of the pain experience, opioid use history, and treatment goals. We subsequently discuss considerations when initiating opioid therapy, strategies to reduce opioid-related risks, and recommended best practices for opioid stewardship in CKD. Using this sequential approach to opioid management, nephrologists can thereby gain a broad overview of key patient considerations, the foundation for understanding implications of opioid use, and a patient-tailored plan for opioid therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-795
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Chronic pain
  • analgesic ladder
  • buprenorphine
  • chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • fentanyl
  • hydromorphone
  • methadone
  • opioid
  • opioid use disorder (OUD)
  • oxycodone
  • pain management
  • palliative care
  • review


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