Opioid Usage and Pain Control in Benign Oropharyngeal Surgery: An Observational Prospective Study

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2022 Oct;131(10):1060-1067. doi: 10.1177/00034894211053290. Epub 2021 Oct 25.


Objectives: Little data is available on opioid usage in the adult population for benign oropharyngeal surgery. The objective here is to evaluate opioid prescribing patterns, opioid consumption, and patient pain patterns following benign oropharyngeal surgery, specifically tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy alone, and expansion sphincter pharyngoplasty.

Methods: Patients aged ≥18 years old and received a tonsillectomy, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or expansion sphincter pharyngoplasty between November 2019 and August 2020 were included. Patients were provided a survey which included a visual analog scale for recording their pain postoperatively and the amount of opioid they had remaining.

Results: About 103 patients completed the post-operative questionnaire. Patients were prescribed 38 837 morphine milligram equivalents and used 28 644: approximately 26% went unused, which is the equivalent of 1346 5 mg oxycodone pills. Opioid consumption correlated with the initial dosage: patients consumed 12% more narcotic on average as the initial prescription went upwards by 50 morphine milligram equivalents. Obstructive sleep apnea, history of smoking, and being female predicted increased opioid usage in this cohort. Pain was reported the highest on postoperative day 1. A prescription of approximately 225 morphine milligram equivalents (150 mg oxycodone) was associated with decreased opioid use in this cohort. Larger initial prescriptions did not result in fewer requests for refills.

Conclusion: A significant amount of opioid medication went unused in this study. A prescription of 225 morphine milligram equivalents (or 150 mg oxycodone) provided appropriate analgesia for the majority of patients. Larger prescriptions may result in increased opioid consumption and may not reduce the amount of refills. More study is needed to confirm these findings.

Keywords: T&A; UPPP; narcotics; opioid; oropharynx; palate surgery; tonsillectomy; tonsils.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxycodone* / therapeutic use
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Prospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Oxycodone