Trends in patient procurement of postoperative opioids and route of hysterectomy in the United States from 2004 through 2014


      The opioid epidemic in the United States is a public health emergency. Minimally invasive surgical technology has decreased length of hospital stay, improved postoperative recovery, and decreased postoperative pain. Hysterectomy is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States. Increasing trends in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery are expected to reduce patients’ postoperative pain. It is unclear whether this assumption has resulted in decreasing postoperative opioid prescriptions or patient need for these prescriptions, as prescribing patterns may be contributing to the current opioid public health emergency.


      We sought to describe opioid prescribing and patient procurement practices for postoperative pain at time of discharge for benign hysterectomy from 2004 through 2014 using the Truven Health Analytics MarketScan Research Database. The trends of the route of hysterectomy over this time period were concomitantly described to reflect the movement toward more minimally invasive approaches.

      Study Design

      The Truven Health Analytics MarketScan Research Database including the Commercial Claims and Encounters Database, and the Medicare Supplemental and Coordination of Benefits Database were utilized. Current Procedural Terminology, 4th Edition, and International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes identified all patients who underwent a hysterectomy for benign indications from 2004 through 2014. Hysterectomy routes were categorized into abdominal, laparoscopic, and vaginal. The MarketScan database captures prescriptions filled at a retail or mail-order pharmacy and does not capture prescriptions filled within the inpatient, hospital facility. The days of opioids procured by patients at the time of discharge were identified for each encounter. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize data within the entire study period. Although this article is purely descriptive, further analyses were conducted for exploratory purposes only. analysis of variance and χ2 analyses were used for continuous and categorical variables, respectively. Multiple linear regression models were used to describe associations between variables of interest and postoperative opioid prescriptions.


      We identified 793,016 patients who underwent a hysterectomy for benign indications from 2004 through 2014. Of these, 96% were identified from the Commercial Claims and Encounters Database. During the study period, the overall route of hysterectomy was categorized into 40.5% abdominal, 42.0% laparoscopic, and 17.5% vaginal hysterectomy. The route of hysterectomy changed from 60.2–25.6% (a decrease of Δ = 34.58; 95% confidence interval, 33.96–35.20) for abdominal, 17.0–61.9% (an increase of Δ = 44.83; 95% confidence interval, 44.21–45.44) for laparoscopic, and 22.8–12.6% (a decrease of Δ = 10.25; 95% confidence interval, 9.77–10.73) for vaginal. At discharge, the percentage of patients who were prescribed opioids and filled them increased from 25.6–82.1% (an increase of Δ = 56.50; 95% confidence interval, 55.88–57.13 with P < .001) from 2004 through 2014 for all hysterectomy routes. Additionally, the quantity of opioids prescribed also increased.


      Opioid prescriptions filled for postoperative pain after hysterectomy substantially increased from 2004 through 2014. Opioid prescription procurement has increased despite a concomitant increase in minimally invasive hysterectomy routes. In light of the current opioid epidemic, physicians must recognize that postoperative prescribing practices may contribute to chronic opioid use. Heightened awareness of opioid prescribing practices following surgery is critically important to decrease risk of development of chronic opioid dependence.

      Key words

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