What Drives Opioid Prescriptions After Cardiac Surgery: Practice or Patient?

Kimberly A. Holst, Joseph Dearani, Hartzel V. Schaff, Kristine T. Hanson, Cornelius A. Thiels, Melissa K. Erdman, Si Pham, Kevin Landolofo, Patrick A De Valeria, Elizabeth B. Habermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Background: The objectives of this study were to describe opioid prescribing after hospitalization for elective cardiac operation, to identify factors associated with increased opioid prescriptions, and to develop procedure-specific opioid prescribing guidelines. Methods: We analyzed data from all adults (≥18 years) undergoing elective cardiac operation for acquired heart disease from July 2014 to March 2017 at 3 affiliated hospitals. Opioid prescription data were abstracted and converted to morphine milligram equivalents (MME). Multivariable logistic regression was performed with the outcome of top-quartile prescriptions. Results: There were 4145 study patients after exclusion of preoperative opioid users (10.5%). Mean ± SD patient age was 63.9 ± 13.2 years, and 68.4% (n = 2835) were male. The operation was the first in 87.3% (3617); the most common operative approach was sternotomy in 91.0% (n = 3773), followed by robot-assisted operation in 4.6% (n = 192). The majority of patients, 72.7%, received an opioid prescription at hospital dismissal, with a median opioid prescription of 200 MME (interquartile range 0 to 375 MME; range 0 to 6400 MME). This varied by hospital, with medians of 150, 450, and 600 MME (P <.001). On multivariable analysis, the factor with greatest association with top-quartile opioid prescription was hospital (odds ratio, 57.2, highest vs lowest; 95% confidence interval, 40.2-81.4; P <.001). Conclusions: Significant variation in opioid prescribing practices after cardiac operation was observed. The primary driver was hospital-centric as opposed to patient specific. Opioid prescribing guidelines were established to standardize posthospital pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1201-1208
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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