Opioid-Related Adverse Events: Incidence and Impact in Patients Undergoing Cardiac Surgery

Semin Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2020 Sep;24(3):219-226. doi: 10.1177/1089253219888658. Epub 2019 Nov 27.


Purpose. Opioid-related adverse drug events (ORADEs) increase patient length of stay (LOS) and health care costs. However, ORADE rates may be underreported. This study attempts to understand the degree to which ORADEs are underreported in Medicare patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Materials and Methods. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrative claims database was used to identify ORADEs in 110 158 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent cardiac valve (n = 50 525) or coronary bypass (n = 59 633) surgery between April 2016 and March 2017. The International Classification of Disease (ICD)-10 codes specifically linked to ORADEs were used to identify an actual ORADE rate, while additional ICD codes, clinically associated with butas not specific to adverse drug events were analyzed as potential ORADEs. Length of stay (LOS) and hospital daily revenue were analyzed among patients with or without a potential ORADE. Results. Among patients undergoing valve or bypass surgery, the documented ORADE rate was 0.7% (743/110 158). However, potential ORADEs may have occurred in up to 32.4% (35 658/110 158) of patients. In patients with a potential ORADE, mean LOS was longer (11.4 vs 8.2 days; P < .0001) and mean Medicare revenue/day was lower ($4016 vs $4412; P < .0001). The mean net difference in revenue/day between patients with and without an ORADE varied between $231 and $1145, depending on the Diagnosis-Related Group analyzed. Conclusions. ORADEs are likely underreported following cardiac surgery. ORADEs can be associated with increased LOS and decreased hospital revenue. Understanding the incidence and economic impact of ORADEs may expedite changes to postoperative pain management. Adopting multimodal pain management strategies that reduce exposure to opioids may improve outcomes by reducing complications, side effects, and health care costs.

Keywords: CABG; adverse events; cardiac surgery; complications; opioid; valve surgery.