Patient-reported opioid use for tissue expander–based breast reconstruction

Published:April 18, 2021DOI:



      There is limited evidence for appropriate post-operative opioid prescribing in breast reconstruction patients. We sought to describe postoperative outpatient prescription opioid use patterns (quantity and duration) following discharge after immediate breast reconstruction with tissue expanders (TE) and to identify demographic and/or clinical risk factors associated with postoperative outpatient opioid use.


      Patients 18 years and older undergoing immediate TE-based breast reconstruction were given a 28-day postoperative pain medication log book. Descriptive statistics were performed to describe the quantity and duration of opioid use. Preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative characteristics were examined and tested for their associations with postoperative opioid use.


      A total of 45 logbooks were completed. On average, patients used opioids for 7.42 days (SD = 6.45) after discharge home and used 15.9 (SD = 18.71) oxycodone 5 mg tablet equivalents (119.3 morphine milligram equivalents, SD = 140.31). The total number of oxycodone 5 mg equivalents consumed prior to discharge was associated with the amount of post-discharge opioid consumption (IRR=1.08, p<0.01). Each additional year of age was associated with a reduction in the days-to-opioid cessation by a factor of 0.97 (p=0.01). Each additional oxycodone 5mg equivalent consumed prior to hospital discharge was associated with an increase in the days-to-cessation after discharge by a factor of 1.04 (p=0.026).


      These patient-reported data will provide a benchmark which plastic surgeons can use to minimize narcotic use in patients and will help prevent issues of dependence, misuse, and diversion, while being mindful of adequate pain control. For patients discharging home after a one-night stay for immediate TE breast reconstruction, we recommend a prescription for 10 oxycodone 5 mg tablets, or 15 tablets if they are less than age 49 or have had high inpatient opioid use. Patients should also be counseled that the expected duration of outpatient opioid use is 7-11 days, and that 20 % of patients did not use any opioids following hospital discharge, making nonnarcotic pain regimens a real possibility.


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