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Attitudes and self-reported practices of orthopedic providers regarding prescription opioid use

Deepa Kattail, MD, MHS, Aaron Hsu, MHS, Myron Yaster, MD, Paul T. Vozzo, BA, Shuna Gao, BA, John M. Thompson, MD, Debra L. Roter, DrPH, Dawn Laporte, MD, R. Frank Henn 3rd, MD, John E. Fiadjoe, MD, Constance L. Monitto, MD


Objective: Orthopedic surgeons are the third-highest opioid prescribers in the United States. Their prescribing practices can significantly affect the quantity of unconsumed opioids available to fuel the current opioid epidemic. The aim of this study was to identify prescribing patterns and knowledge gaps among orthopedic providers for targeted future interventions and investigation.

Design: An online survey describing six common orthopedic surgical scenarios was distributed electronically to determine opioid type and quantity prescribed at discharge, medication disposal instructions, and the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in the prescription writing process.

Setting: Tertiary care academic hospitals.

Participants: Orthopedic physicians and mid-level providers practicing at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and University of Maryland Medical System. Of 179 providers contacted, 127 (71 percent) completed the survey.

Main outcome measures: Quantity of opioid prescribed, utilization of PDMPs, and provision of opioid disposal instructions.

Results: While statistically significant associations were identified between quantity of opioid prescribed and surgical procedure, for five of six scenarios 95 percent of respondents recommended prescribing >55 oxycodone 5 mg pill equivalents (PEs) at discharge. An inverse correlation between years of clinical practice and mean number of PEs prescribed was observed. Fewer than 40 percent of respondents modified prescribing when presented with clinically relevant changes in scenario (history of depression or drug abuse). Over 60 percent of respondents do not use PDMPs, and 79 percent do not provide opioid disposal instructions.

Conclusions: Our findings support a need for targeted education to mitigate the role of orthopedic postoperative prescribing practices on the current opioid abuse epidemic.


acute postoperative pain, opioid epidemic, risk mitigation

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