Opioids and the Otolaryngologist: An Ambulatory Assessment

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Jul;159(1):29-34. doi: 10.1177/0194599818765125. Epub 2018 Mar 20.


Objectives To recognize current opioid prescription patterns in otolaryngology and determine changes in rates of outpatient opioid prescribing over time. Study Design Cross-sectional analysis of national survey database. Setting Ambulatory care settings in the United States. Subjects and Methods The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2006 to 2013 was analyzed for outpatient otolaryngology visits. The rate of opioid medication prescribing was determined with patient and visit characteristics associated with an opioid prescription, including corresponding diagnoses. Calendar trends for the rate of opioid prescribing were determined and compared biennially. Results Among 19.2 ± 1.7 million otolaryngology visits annually (raw N = 11,905), there were 728,000 ± 96,000 visits with an opioid prescription (3.8% ± 0.4%). Adults were more likely than children to receive a narcotic (4.3% vs 1.9%, P < .001); there was no significant difference according to sex (3.9% female vs 3.7% male, P = .567). With respect to calendar trend, the opioid prescription rate increased significantly from 2.3% in 2006-2007 to 4.6% in 2008-2011 and then decreased to 3.5% in 2012-2013 ( P < .031). The most common visit diagnosis categories associated with opioid prescribing were as follows: postoperative care (19.7% of prescriptions), adenotonsillitis (13.9%), chronic otitis media (8.7%), otitis externa (6.2%), and nasal obstruction (5.6%). Conclusion Despite the opioid epidemic in the United States, only a small portion of otolaryngology visits were associated with opioid prescription. However, given the significant increase in prescribing from 2008 to 2011, continued surveillance of prescribing patterns is warranted.

Keywords: addiction; ambulatory; narcotic; opioid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Otolaryngology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*


  • Analgesics, Opioid