The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 34, Issue 7, 1354 - 1358

Early In-Hospital Pain Control Is a Stronger Predictor for Patients Requiring a Refill of Narcotic Pain Medication Compared to the Amount of Narcotics Given at Discharge

Wilke, Benjamin K. et al.


The United States is combating an opioid epidemic. Orthopedic surgeons are the third highest opioid prescribers and therefore have an opportunity and obligation to assist in the efforts to reduce opioid use and abuse. In this article, we evaluate risk factors for patients requiring an opioid refill after primary total knee arthroplasty, with the goal to reduce opioid prescriptions for those patients at low risk of requiring a refill in order to reduce the amount of unused medication.


We retrospectively reviewed narcotic-naïve patients who underwent total knee arthroplasty from December 2017 to May 2018. We performed multivariable analysis on demographics and preoperative, operative, and postoperative characteristics to determine risk factors for requiring a prescription refill following hospital discharge.


One-hundred fifty-seven patients were included in the analysis. Sixty percent of patients required a prescription refill. Risk factors included younger age ( P = .003) and increased pain on postoperative day one ( P < .001). The amount of narcotic medication given at discharge did not independently affect the refill rate ( P = .21).


There is strong evidence that elderly patients and those with good pain control on postoperative day 1 are at a lower risk of requiring a narcotic refill postoperatively. With this information, physicians may begin to tailor narcotic prescriptions based on patient risk factors for requiring a prescription refill rather than provide patients with the same number of pills for a given surgery in an effort to reduce unused narcotic medication.

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