Opioid Use Following Bariatric Surgery: Results of a Prospective Survey

Obes Surg. 2020 Mar;30(3):1032-1037. doi: 10.1007/s11695-019-04301-9.


Background: Opioid use after bariatric surgery is not clearly understood. Few guidelines exist to inform opioid-prescribing practices after bariatric surgery.

Objective: To understand opioid use following bariatric surgery.

Setting: University hospital.

Methods: Bariatric surgery patients at a single center were prospectively surveyed at the time of their post-operative visit (January-May 2018). Patients were asked about their opioid use following surgery, whether they received education about opioid use and what they did with leftover medications. Demographic and operative details were obtained from the medical record.

Results: Among 33 patients, the majority (n = 29, 88%) were female with a median age of 40 (20-68) and body mass index of 44.8 (33-78.5). Most patients had leftover narcotics (n = 25, 73%). The median number of pills used was 15 (0-48). Only 12 patients (36%) thought that they had been prescribed "too much" pain medication. Most patients reported receiving education about expectations for post-operative pain (n = 22, 69%); few recalled education about reducing or stopping opioids (n = 13, 40%). More than half of patients (n = 17, 53%) kept their leftover opioids rather than disposing of them or bringing them to an approved turn in location.

Conclusions: Despite most patients having leftover opioids following surgery, few patients recognized possible overprescription. Education regarding opioid use following surgery is inconsistent, potentially contributing to the amount of retained opioids currently available. Future guidelines should focus on determining the appropriate amount of opioids to be prescribed following surgery and standardizing and improving education given to patients.

Keywords: Bariatric surgery; Opioids; Patient education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Bariatric Surgery / adverse effects*
  • Bariatric Surgery / rehabilitation
  • Bariatric Surgery / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Pain, Postoperative* / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative* / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid