Pain and opioid prescriptions vary by procedure after breast surgery

Brittany L. Murphy, Cornelius A. Thiels, Kristine T. Hanson, Sarah McLaughlin, James W. Jakub, Richard J. Gray, Daniel S. Ubl, Elizabeth B. Habermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: With the opioid epidemic in the United States, evaluating opioid prescribing patterns is essential. We evaluated opioids prescribed at discharge following breast surgery and their association with patient factors and pain scores. Methods: We retrospectively identified adult patients who underwent a mastectomy for cancer at Mayo Clinic sites from January 2010 to December 2016. Pain scores and prescription data were compared across operations and patient factors by univariate and multivariable analyses. Results: Of 4021 patients, 3782 (94.1%) received an opioid prescription. Median oral milligram morphine equivalents (MME) were similar across all site-specific procedure groups (medians ranging from 225 to 375) while pain scores ranged from 1 to 4. Patients undergoing bilateral mastectomy (BM) and immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) reported the greatest pain scores. Pain scores did not vary with age or diagnosis for patients undergoing unilateral mastectomy or BM with lymph node surgery and IBR procedures. On multivariable analysis, variables associated with a MME discharge prescription >Q4 values included age, body mass index, site, year, inpatient status, and pain before discharge >3. Conclusion: Patient-reported pain following breast surgery varied by procedure, while MMEs prescribed remained similar. This suggests current opioid prescribing does not reflect intensity of pain and requires further research to optimize discharge opioid prescribing practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-602
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • breast surgery
  • opioids
  • postoperative pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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