Perioperative and persistent opioid utilization following pancreatectomy in the United States


Background: Opioids are central to analgesia for pancreatic diseases. Individuals undergoing pancreatectomy have largely been excluded from studies of opioid use, because of malignancy or chronic use. Surgeons need to understand usage patterns, and practices that may incline patients toward persistent post-operative use.

Methods: A retrospective study using IBM Watson Health MarketScan database examined patterns of peri-pancreatectomy opioid use between 2009 and 2017. Patients were grouped by opioid use 12 months to 31 days prior to pancreatectomy and followed for persistent use (refills 90-180 days postoperatively). Morphine milligram equivalents (MME) were calculated. Multivariable models explored associations between clinical characteristics, perioperative use and persistent use.

Results: Opioids were used within the year prior to surgery by 35.6% of 8325 patients. The median MME for opioid naïve patients (400 mg) was a fraction of the 1800 mg prescribed to chronic opioid users for peri-operative analgesia. The rate of persistent opioid use was 15.1% among naïve, 27.2% among intermittent and 77.3% among chronic opioid users. Multivariable models demonstrated naïve and intermittent users who filled a prescription within 30 days prior to pancreatectomy, those who were prescribed total MME ≥1500 mg, and a ≥14 day supply were most at risk of persistent opioid use. Almost 23% of chronic users stopped using opioids post-operatively, suggesting surgery can provide relief.

Conclusion: Preoperative and persistent opioid use after pancreatectomy is substantially greater than expected based on other operations. Providers may mitigate this by recognizing the issue, managing expectations, and altering the timing and quantities of opioids prescribed.