Postoperative Opioid Consumption in Thoracic Surgery Patients: How Much Is Actually Used?

Kimberly A. Holst, Cornelius A. Thiels, Daniel S. Ubl, Shanda H. Blackmon, Stephen D. Cassivi, Francis C. Nichols, K. Robert Shen, Dennis A. Wigle, Mathew Thomas, Ian A. Makey, Staci E. Beamer, Dawn E. Jaroszewski, Mark S. Allen, Elizabeth B. Habermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The objective of this initiative was to perform a prospective, multicenter survey of patients after lung resection to assess the amount of opioid medication consumed and the disposition of unused opioids to inform the development of evidence-based prescribing guidelines. Methods: Adults undergoing lung resection with either minimally invasive surgery (MIS; n = 108) or thoracotomy (n = 45) were identified prospectively from 3 academic centers (from March 2017 to January 2018) to complete a 28-question telephone survey 21 to 35 days after discharge. Discharge opioids were converted into morphine milligram equivalents (MME) and were compared across patient and surgical details. Results: Of the 153 patients who completed the survey, 89.5% (137) received opioids at discharge with a median prescription of 320 MME (interquartile range [IQR], 225, 450 MME) after MIS and 450 MME (IQR, 300, 600 MME) after thoracotomy (P = .001). Median opioid consumption varied by surgical approach: 90 MME (IQR, 0, 262.5) after MIS and 300 MME (IQR, 50, 382.5 MME) after thoracotomy (P < .001). The majority of patients (73.7%; 101) had residual opioid medication at the time of the survey, and patients after MIS had a relative increase in amount of remaining opioid medication: 58.3% vs 33.3% (P = .05) of the original prescription. Only 5.9% of patients with opioids remaining had properly disposed of them. Conclusions: Although patients undergoing MIS lung resection used significantly less opioid medication over a shorter duration of time than did patients after thoracotomy, they had relatively more excess opioid prescription. Evidence-based, procedure-specific guidelines with tailored pain regimens should be developed and implemented to reduce the amount of postoperative opioid medication remaining in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1033-1039
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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