Opioid Prescribing and Consumption Patterns following Outpatient Plastic Surgery Procedures

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2019 Mar;143(3):929-938. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000005351.


Background: Opioid overprescribing is a nationwide problem contributing to the current epidemic. This study evaluated opioid consumption, physician prescribing, and patient satisfaction with pain control following outpatient plastic surgery procedures.

Methods: Patients completed a questionnaire during their first postoperative visit. The authors queried about procedure type, quantity of opioids prescribed and consumed, days to opioid cessation, prescription refills, pain scores, use of nonopioid analgesics, and satisfaction with pain control.

Results: One hundred seventy patients were included. On average, 26 tablets were prescribed and 13 were consumed. Eighty percent of patients stopped opioids by postoperative day 5. Patients rated their worst pain at 6.1 and follow-up pain at 1.9. Approximately 50 percent of patients consumed nonopioid analgesics. Ninety-six percent of patients were satisfied with their pain control. Similar findings were observed across procedure subcategories. The number of pills prescribed was not correlated with satisfaction but was predictive of worst pain level (p = 0.014). Reduction mammaplasty and abdominoplasty patients consumed the most opioids at 17 and 18.6 pills, respectively; however, first-stage alloplastic breast reconstruction had the largest percentage of patients consuming opioids at the time of follow-up (25 percent) and requiring refills (7 percent). Patients who underwent revision of their reconstructed breast reported the earliest opioid cessation, rated their pain the lowest, and were prescribed the most excess tablets.

Conclusions: Plastic surgeons are prescribing almost double the amount of opioids consumed by patients after outpatient plastic surgery procedures. The results of this study may help guide prescribing practices.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemics / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Pain Management / adverse effects
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Management / standards
  • Pain Management / statistics & numerical data
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surgeons / standards
  • Surgeons / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid