How Common is Persistent Opioid Use After Plastic, Reconstructive Surgery?

Bottom Line: This study examined how common persistent opioid use was after plastic and reconstructive surgery procedures of the nose, eye, breast, abdomen and soft tissue. The study included about 467,000 patients, of whom about half filled prescriptions for postoperative pain relievers and nearly all those prescriptions filled were for opioids. Persistent opioid use (prescription filled 90 to 180 days after surgery) occurred in 30,865 (6.6 percent) patients and prolonged opioid use (opioid prescription filled 90-180 days after surgery and then again 181 to 365 days after surgery) occurred in 10,487 (2.3 percent) patients. Patients who filled prescriptions for opioids shortly before or after surgery were more likely to have persistent and prolonged use. A limitation of the study is that opioid prescription fills were used as a proxy for opioid consumption, which doesn’t account for patients who may fill but not use a postoperative opioid prescription or patients who may have obtained opioids by other means such as from friends, family or other nonmedical sources.

Author: Sam P. Most, M.D., Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Stanford, California, and coauthors