Opioid consumption following orthopedic shoulder surgery: a retrospective analysis

Saisanjana Vattigunta, Scott Weiner, Suresh K. Nayar, Sabrina Jenkins, Umasuthan Srikumaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prescription opioid misuse has become an epidemic in the United States and is a leading cause of death in Americans. Postoperative opioid prescriptions are a significant contributor to the opioid epidemic, with orthopedic surgeons being the third highest prescribers of opioid prescriptions among physicians across all specialties. Our aim was to retrospectively evaluate overall opioid consumption patterns following surgical treatment for shoulder pathology and recommend evidence-based guidelines for standardized postoperative opioid prescriptions. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients who underwent shoulder arthroscopy or arthroplasty from a single shoulder/elbow fellowship-trained surgeon (principal investigator). Patient and surgery characteristics were summarized for the entire sample and further stratified by surgery type. Total opioid consumption at the time of the first postoperative visit and refill patterns were compared between each surgery group. Opioid consumption was analyzed in morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) and is reported in the equivalent number of 5-mg oxycodone tablets. Results: A total of 119 patients were included in our analysis. The average age was 58 ± 13 years, and 59% of patients were male. Rotator cuff repair was the most frequent surgery (n = 52), followed by arthroplasty (n = 35) and arthroscopy (n = 28). On average, the patients in the study used 82.5 ± 233 MME units, equivalent to 11 ± 31.067 tablets of 5-mg oxycodone. Sixteen percent of patients did not use any opioids. There was no significant difference in opioid consumption or refills across surgery type. In the bivariate analysis for the entire sample, age was the only predictor that was statistically significantly associated with the amount of opioid consumption. In the multivariable model for patient demographics, significant predictors of opioid consumption were age, gender, and pain scores. In the multivariate analysis by surgery type, significant predictors of higher opioid consumption were age, gender, pain score, and surgery performed on the dominant side. Conclusion: On the basis of the consumption patterns observed in our patient cohort, we recommend prescribing 112.5 MME (15 tablets of 5-mg oxycodone) for arthroscopic shoulder procedures, and 75 MME (10 tablets of 5-mg oxycodone) for shoulder arthroplasties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S153-S158
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Level II
  • Postoperative pain management
  • Retrospective Study
  • opioid
  • shoulder arthroplasty
  • shoulder arthroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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