Importance: In recent years, the medical community's inadvertent contribution to opioid addiction has been recognized.
Objective: To determine the opioid prescribing practices and opioid needs for patients undergoing thyroid and parathyroid surgery to help reduce postoperative opioid administration.
Design, setting, and participants: This retrospective cohort study included 1788 opioid-naive patients who underwent thyroid and parathyroid surgery from January 1, 2012, through December 31, 2017, at the high-volume academic endocrine surgery center at Oregon Health and Sciences University. Patients with long-term opioid treatment and those who underwent other head and neck procedures or robotic thyroidectomy were excluded. For analysis, 1765 procedures were available (723 parathyroidectomy, 400 hemithyroidectomy, and 642 total thyroidectomy).
Main outcomes and measures: The quantity of prescribed opioids was determined in morphine milligram equivalents (MME). Opioid refill data after discharge were also analyzed. Patients were then divided into past (1336 in group 1 [January 1, 2012, to September 30, 2016]) and current (429 in group 2 [October 31, 2016, to December 31, 2017]) prescribing practices. For each procedure, the mean quantity prescribed for each group, difference between the means, 95% CI for the difference, and effect size were calculated.
Results: A total of 1702 patients (80.0% female [n = 1361]; mean age, 51.2 years [range, 7-97 years]) undergoing 1765 procedures were included in the analysis. For parathyroidectomy, the mean (SD) opioid quantity prescribed was 176.20 (86.66) MME in group 1 vs 80.08 (74.43) MME in group 2 (effect size, 1.139); for hemithyroidectomy, 204.65 (112.24) MME in group 1 vs 112.24 (102.31) MME in group 2 (effect size, 0.842); and for total thyroidectomy, 214.87 (161.09) MME for group 1 vs 102.29 (87.72) MME for group 2 (effect size, 0.754). In the last quarter of 2017, the numbers of patients discharged without any opioid prescription were 15 of 26 (57.5%) for parathyroidectomy, 12 of 32 (37.5%) for hemithyroidectomy, and 9 of 27 (33.3%) for total thyroidectomy. Patient calls requesting pain medications for group 2 were similar or fewer, depending on the procedure. Those who were prescribed less than 75.0 MME postoperatively did not call for additional opioid prescriptions.
Conclusions and relevance: Our study suggests that patients undergoing thyroid and parathyroid surgery need little, if any, postoperative opioids.