Incidence and risk factors for prolonged postoperative opioid use following lumbar spine surgery: a cohort study

Anshit Goyal, Stephanie Payne, Lindsey R. Sangaralingham, Molly Moore Jeffery, James M. Naessens, Halena M. Gazelka, Elizabeth B. Habermann, William Krauss, Robert J. Spinner, Mohamad Bydon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE Sustained postoperative opioid use after elective surgery is a matter of growing concern. Herein, the authors investigated incidence and predictors of long-term opioid use among patients undergoing elective lumbar spine surgery, especially as a function of opioid prescribing practices at postoperative discharge (dose in morphine milligram equivalents [MMEs] and type of opioid). METHODS The OptumLabs Data Warehouse (OLDW) was queried for postdischarge opioid prescriptions for patients undergoing elective lumbar decompression and discectomy (LDD) or posterior lumbar fusion (PLF) for degenerative spine disease. Only patients who received an opioid prescription at postoperative discharge and those who had a minimum of 180 days of insurance coverage prior to surgery and 180 days after surgery were included. Opioid-naive patients were defined as those who had no opioid fills in 180 days prior to surgery. The following patterns of long-term postoperative use were investigated: additional fills (at least one opioid fill 90–180 days after surgery), persistent fills (any span of opioid use starting in the 180 days after surgery and lasting at least 90 days), and Consortium to Study Opioid Risks and Trends (CONSORT) criteria for persistent use (episodes of opioid prescribing lasting longer than 90 days and 120 or more total days’ supply or 10 or more prescriptions in 180 days after the index fill). Multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify predictors of long-term use. RESULTS A total of 25,587 patients were included, of whom 52.7% underwent PLF (n = 13,486) and 32.5% (n = 8312) were opioid-naive prior to surgery. The rates of additional fills, persistent fills, and CONSORT use were 47%, 30%, and 23%, respectively, after PLF and 35.4%, 19%, and 14.2%, respectively, after LDD. The rates among opioid-naive patients were 18.9%, 5.6%, and 2.5% respectively, after PLF and 13.3%, 2.0%, and 0.8%, respectively, after LDD. Using multivariable logistic regression, the following were identified to be significantly associated with higher risk of long-term opioid use following PLF: discharge opioid prescription ≥ 500 MMEs, prescription of a long-acting opioid, female sex, multilevel surgery, and comorbidities such as depression and drug abuse (all p < 0.05). Elderly (age ≥ 65 years) and opioid-naive patients were found to be at lower risk (all p < 0.05). Similar results were obtained on analysis for LDD with the following significant additional risk factors identified: discharge opioid prescription ≥ 400 MMEs, prescription of tramadol alone at discharge, and inpatient surgery (all p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS In an analysis of pharmacy claims from a national insurance database, the authors identified incidence and predictors of long-term opioid use after elective lumbar spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-591
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Additional opioid use
  • Consortium to Study Opioid Risks and Trends
  • Lumbar spine
  • Persistent opioid use
  • Postsurgical
  • Prolonged opioid use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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