The United States is experiencing an opioid abuse epidemic. Opioid overprescription by physicians may contribute to this epidemic.Objectives
To determine if there was a correlation between a postoperative patient’s 24-hour predischarge opioid use and the amount of opioids prescribed at hospital discharge and to determine the number of patients who used no opioids prior to discharge but were still prescribed opioids after hospital discharge.Design, Setting, and Participants
This cross-sectional study performed a retrospective record review of 18 343 postoperative patients at Boston Medical Center and Lahey Hospital and Medical Center–Burlington Campus who were discharged home after a postoperative inpatient admission of at least 24 hours. Data collection spanned from May 22, 2014, to June 30, 2016, in the Boston Medical Center data set and from March 23, 2015, to September 7, 2016, in the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center–Burlington Campus data set.Exposures
Surgery requiring a postoperative inpatient hospital stay longer than 24 hours.Main Outcomes and Measures
The main outcome measures were the patient’s 24-hour predischarge opioid use and the total quantity of opioids prescribed at hospital discharge. Potential overprescription was defined as the number of patients who used no opioids in the 24 hours prior to hospital discharge but were still prescribed opioids after hospital discharge.Results
Among the 18 343 patients (10 069 women and 8274 men; mean age, 52.2 years) who underwent 21 452 surgical procedures, there was wide variation in the amount of opioids prescribed at hospital discharge given a postoperative patient’s 24-hour predischarge opioid use. A total of 6548 patients (35.7%) used no opioids in the 24 hours prior to hospital discharge; however, 2988 of these patients (45.6%) were prescribed opioids at hospital discharge, suggesting potential overprescription. Services that had the highest rates of potential overprescription (obstetrics [adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 3.146; 95% CI, 2.094-4.765] and gynecology [AOR, 2.355; 95% CI, 1.663-3.390], orthopedics [AOR, 0.943; 95% CI, 0.719-1.242], and plastic surgery [AOR, 0.733; 95% CI, 0.334-1.682]) generally had the highest rates of patients still using opioids at hospital discharge. Pediatric surgery was the only service that did not have any cases of potential overprescription (AOR, 2.09 × 10−7; 95% CI, 0.000-0.016).Conclusions and Relevance
Opioids are not regularly prescribed in a patient-specific manner to postoperative patients. Potential opioid overprescription occurs regularly after surgery among almost all surgical specialties.