Evaluation of opioid prescribing preferences among surgical residents and faculty

Surgery. 2021 Oct;170(4):1066-1073. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2021.02.067. Epub 2021 Apr 12.


Background: Residents report that faculty preference is a significant driver of opioid prescribing practices. This study compared opioid prescribing preferences of surgical residents and faculty against published guidelines and actual practice and assessed perceptions in communication and transparency around these practices.

Methods: Surgical residents and faculty were surveyed to evaluate the number of oxycodone tablets prescribed for common procedures. Quantities were compared between residents, faculty, Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network guidelines, and actual opioids prescribed. Frequency with which faculty communicate prescribing preferences and the desire for feedback and transparency in prescription practices were assessed.

Results: Fifty-six (72%) residents and 57 (59%) faculty completed the survey. Overall, faculty preferred a median number of tablets greater than recommended by Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network in 5 procedures, while residents did so in 9 of 14 procedures. On average, across all operations, faculty reported prescribing practices compliant with Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network 56.1% of the time, whereas residents did so 47.6% of the time (P = .40). Interestingly, opioids actually prescribed were significantly less than recommended in 7 procedures. Among faculty, 62% reported often or always specifying prescription preferences to residents, while only 9% of residents noted that faculty often did so. Residents (80%) and faculty (75%) were amenable to seeing regular reports of personal opioid prescription practices, and 74% and 65% were amenable to seeing practices compared with peers. Only 34% of residents and 44% of faculty wanted prescription practices made public.

Conclusion: There is a disconnect between opioid prescribing preferences and practice among surgical residents and faculty. Increased transparency through individualized reports and education regarding Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network guidelines with incorporation into the electronic medical record as practice advisories may reduce prescription variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Faculty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Oxycodone / therapeutic use*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Oxycodone