Opioid prescription rates for knee surgery vary nationwide

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Opioid prescription rates for outpatient knee surgery vary nationwide, according to a study recently published in BMJ Open.

“We found massive levels of variation in the proportion of patients who are prescribed opioids between states, even after adjusting for nuances of the procedure and differences in patient characteristics,” said Dr. M. Kit Delgado, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We’ve also seen that the average number of pills prescribed was extremely high for outpatient procedures of this type, particularly for patients who had not been taking opioids prior to surgery.”

Researchers examined insurance claims for nearly 100,000 patients who had arthroscopic knee surgery between 2015 and 2019 and had not used any opioid prescriptions in the six months before the surgery.

Within three days of a procedure, 72 percent of patients filled an opioid prescription. High prescription rates were found in the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain regions. The coasts had lower rates.

Nationwide, the average prescription strength was equivalent to 250 milligrams of morphine over five days. This is the threshold for increased risk of opioid overdose death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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