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Opioids Often Overprescribed in Patients Undergoing Surgery

Last Updated: July 17, 2017.

For patients undergoing common elective procedures, opioids are often overprescribed, according to a study published online July 10 in the Annals of Surgery.

MONDAY, July 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- For patients undergoing common elective procedures, opioids are often overprescribed, according to a study published online July 10 in the Annals of Surgery.

Noting that a maximum of 200 mg oral morphine equivalents (OMEs) should be prescribed at discharge for opioid-naive patients, Cornelius A. Thiels, D.O., M.B.A., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues examined opioid prescribing practices across surgical specialties and institutions. They identified adults undergoing 25 common elective procedures from 2013 to 2015 at three academic centers.

The researchers found that 93.9 percent of the 7,651 patients received opioid prescriptions at discharge. A median of 375 OMEs were prescribed among the 7,181 patients who received opioid prescriptions. There was between-sex variation in the median OME (375 for men versus 390 for women; P = 0.002) and an increase in OME with age (from 375 for age 18 to 39 years to 425 for age 80 years and older; P < 0.001). More opioids were received by patients with obesity and patients with non-cancer diagnoses (both P < 0.001). Overall, 80.9 percent of the 5,756 opioid-naive patients received more than 200 OMEs. Within each procedure and between the three medical centers there was significant variation in opioid prescribing practices.

"It is imperative that evidence-based prescribing practices for postsurgical patients are developed that include data-driven corrections tailored to subsets of specific patients and procedures and that surgeons be leaders in combating the opioid epidemic in the United States," the authors write.

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