Opioid Use After Discharge Following Primary Unilateral Total Hip Arthroplasty: How Much Are We Overprescribing?

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The Journal of arthroplasty


arthroplasty; epidemic; excess narcotics; hip; opioid; pain


BACKGROUND: The opioid crisis pressures orthopedic surgeons to reduce the amount of narcotics prescribed for postoperative pain management. This study sought to quantify postoperative opioid use after hospital discharge for primary unilateral total hip arthroplasty (THA) patients.

METHODS: A prospective cohort of primary unilateral THA patients were enrolled at a single institution. Detailed pain journals tracked all prescription and over-the-counter pain medication, quantity, frequency, and visual analog scale pain scores. Pain medications were converted to morphine milligram equivalents (MME).

RESULTS: Data from 121 subjects were analyzed; the average visual analog scale pain score was 3.44 while taking narcotics. The average number of days taking narcotics was 8.46 days. The distribution of days taking narcotics was right shifted with 50.5% of patients off narcotics after 1 week, and 82.6% off by 2 weeks postoperatively. The average number of narcotic pills prescribed was significantly greater than narcotic pills taken (72.5 vs 28.8, P < .0001). The average MME prescribed was significantly greater than MME taken (452.1 vs 133.8, P < .0001). The average excess narcotic pills prescribed per patient was 51.7 pills. And 71.9% took fewer than 30 narcotic pills; 90.9% patients took fewer than 50 narcotic pills. Also, 10.7% did not require any narcotics; 9.9% required a refill of narcotics; and 33.1% went home the day of surgery.

CONCLUSION: Significantly more narcotics were prescribed than were taken in the postoperative period following THA with an average 51.7 excess narcotic pills per patient. Adjusting prescribing patterns to match patient narcotic usage could reduce the excess narcotic pills following THA.

Clinical Institute

Orthopedics & Sports Medicine