This is a prospective observational study.
The aim was to record daily opioid use and pain levels after 1-level or 2-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) or cervical disc arthroplasty (CDA).
Data to inform opioid prescription guidelines following ACDF or CDA is lacking. Understanding postoperative opioid consumption behaviors is critical to provide appropriate postdischarge prescriptions.
Patients undergoing 1-level or 2-level primary ACDF or CDA were consecutively enrolled at 2 participating institutions between March 2018 and March 2019. Patients with opioid dependence (defined as daily use ≥6 mo before surgery) were excluded. Starting postoperative day 1, daily opioid use and numeric pain rating scale pain levels were collected through a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant, automated text-messaging system. To facilitate clinical applications, opioid use was converted from oral morphine equivalents into “pills” (oxycodone 5 mg equivalents). After 6 weeks or upon patient-reported cessation of opioid use, final survey questions were asked. Refill data were verified from the state prescription registry. Risk factors for patients in top quartile of consumption were analyzed.
Of 57 patients, 48 completed the daily queries (84.2%). Mean age of the patient sample was 50.2±10.9 years. Thirty-two patients (66.7%) underwent ACDF and 16 CDA (33.3%); 64.6% one level; 35.4% two levels. Median postdischarge use was 6.7 pills (range: 0-160). Cumulative opioid use did not vary between the 1-level and 2-level groups (median pill consumption, 10 interquartile range: 1.3-31.3 vs. 4 interquartile range: 0-18, respectively, P=0.085). Thirteen patients (27.1%) did not use any opioids after discharge. Of those patients that took opioids after discharge, half ceased opioids by postoperative day 8. Preoperative intermittent opioid use was associated with the top quartile of opioid consumption (9.1% vs. 50%, P=0.006).
Given that most patients use few opioids, patients could be offered the option of a 12 oxycodone 5 mg (90 oral morphine equivalents) discharge prescription, accompanied by education on appropriate opioid use and disposal.

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