Chronic opioid use following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery for degenerative cervical pathology

Andrew B. Harris, Majd Marrache, Meghana Jami, Micheal Raad, Varun Puvanesarajah, Hamid Hassanzadeh, Sang H. Lee, Richard Skolasky, Mark Bicket, Amit Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Although prescribing opioid medication on a limited basis for postoperative pain control is common practice, few studies have focused on chronic opioid use following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). PURPOSE: To determine the prevalence of and risk factors for chronic opioid use following one and two-level ACDF for degenerative cervical pathology. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort. PATIENT SAMPLE: Using an insurance claims database, we identified patients aged 18–64 who underwent one or two-level primary ACDF from 2010 to 2015 for degenerative cervical pathology. OUTCOME MEASURES: Opioid prescription strength at various timepoints pre- and postoperatively and development of chronic postoperative opioid use. METHODS: Prescription opioid use was examined during the following periods: 90 days before 7 days preceding surgery (preoperative), 6 days preceding surgery to 90 days following surgery (perioperative) and from 91 to 365 days following surgery (postoperative). The primary outcome was chronic postoperative opioid use, defined as ≥120 days’ supply of opioid prescriptions filled or ≥10 opioid prescriptions between 3 and 12 months postoperatively. Secondary outcomes were high-dose (>90 morphine milligram equivalents [MME]/day) and very high-dose (>200 MME/day) opioid prescriptions. A multivariate logistic model (area under the ROC curve 0.75, p<.001) was built to predict long-term opioid use. RESULTS: Among 28,813 patients who underwent ACDF, most were female (55%) and underwent single-level ACDF (68%), with mean age of 50±8.0 years. Fifty-two percent of patients filled an opioid prescription in the preoperative period, 95% of patients filled a prescription in the perioperative period, and 39% of patients filled a prescription in the postoperative period. High-dose and very high-dose opioid prescriptions in the perioperative period were identified in 45% and 24% of patients, respectively, whereas 17% met criteria for chronic postoperative opioid use. The odds of chronic opioid use were highest in the Western US (odds ratio [OR] 1.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3, 1.6). Duration of opioids prescribed was also highest in the Western US (median 111 days, interquartile range 11–336), p<.001. Factors associated with the highest risk for chronic opioid use were preoperative opioid use (OR 5.7, 95% CI 5.3, 56.2), drug abuse (OR 3.5, 95% CI 2.6, 4.5), depression (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.6, 1.9), anxiety (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.4, 1.6), and surgery in the western region of the United States (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.3, 1.6). CONCLUSIONS: Patients undergoing ACDF commonly receive high-dose opioid prescriptions after surgery, and certain patient factors increase risk for chronic opioid use following ACDF. Intervention focusing on patients with these factors is essential to reduce long-term use of prescription opioids and postoperative care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
  • Cervical spine
  • Chronic opioid use
  • Opioid epidemic
  • Opioids
  • Spinal fusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Chronic opioid use following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery for degenerative cervical pathology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this