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Arthrosc Sports Med Rehabil


Purpose: We wanted to evaluate opioid prescribing patterns among orthopaedic surgeons and to identify demographics that may be associated with more extensive opioid prescribing habits that could be candidates for targeted education policies.

Methods: Medicare Part D prescriber and prescription information for the most recent available year, 2017, was accessed via a publicly available database offered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Number of total prescriptions, number of opioid prescriptions, and the total days' supply of opioids prescribed were analyzed for each of 19,219 orthopaedic surgeons. Demographics and board certification status were also recorded.

Results: Orthopaedic surgeons who wrote the most opioid prescriptions (>400 per year) also wrote the longest prescription durations (14.1 days/prescription, P < .05 for all comparisons). Surgeons with more than 30 years of experience wrote the longest prescriptions (11.8 days/prescription; P < .001). Male surgeons wrote more opioid prescriptions than female surgeons (151 vs 95, respectively; P < .001). However, female surgeons wrote longer prescriptions than male surgeons (7.5 days/prescription vs 6.1 days/prescription, respectively; P = .01). Surgeons from southern states wrote the most opioid prescriptions (1,386,897) and the longest prescriptions, with an average of 13.0 days per prescription, whereas western states wrote the shortest prescriptions at 10.4 days per prescription (P = .004).

Conclusion: There are demographic correlations between orthopaedic surgeons and opioid prescribing patterns. In particular, male, older southern surgeons prescribe the highest volumes of opioids. This provides an opportunity for targeted education versus overarching, general policies. Potential directions for future investigation can focus on assessing recent trends in opioid prescriptions among orthopaedic providers.

Level of Evidence: Level III, retrospective cohort study.

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