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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 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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