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Laryngoscope. 2018 May 14. doi: 10.1002/lary.27215. [Epub ahead of print]

Opioid prescribing practices in patients undergoing surgery for oral cavity cancer.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, UC San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, California, U.S.A.
Department of Medicine, UC San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, California, U.S.A.
Department of Anesthesiology, UC San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, California, U.S.A.



Opioids have been overprescribed after general and orthopedic surgeries, but prescribing patterns have not been reported for head and neck surgery. The objectives of this retrospective review are to describe postoperative opioid prescriptions after oral cancer surgery and determine which patients receive higher amounts.


A single institution retrospective review was performed for 81 adults with oral cavity tumors undergoing surgery. Opioid prescriptions upon discharge were reported in daily oral morphine equivalents (OME). High opioids were defined as > 90 mg daily and > 200 mg total, commensurate with U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to investigate factors associated with high opioids.


The median number of doses dispensed was 30 (interquartile range [IQR] 30-45; range 3-120). The median daily dose was 30 mg (IQR 20-45 mg; range 15-240 mg). Five patients (6%) received higher than the recommended daily dose. The median total dispensed amount was 225 mg (IQR 150-250 mg; range 15-1200 mg). Fifty-one (63%) received greater than the recommended total dose. On multivariable logistic regression, advanced tumor stage (odds ratio [OR] 11.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-109.4; P = 0.034) and inpatient pain scores (OR 1.3 per 1-unit increase; 95% CI 1.0-1.7; P = 0.039) were associated with receiving high total opioids after surgery.


The majority of patients received greater than the recommended 200 mg total OME. Advanced stage and higher inpatient pain scores were associated with receiving more opioids for discharge. Consensus-driven analgesic plans are needed to reduce excess opioids after discharge following head and neck surgery.


4. Laryngoscope, 2018.


Opioid; head and neck cancer; oral cavity; prescribing patterns; surgery


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