Bottom Line: National private insurance claims data were used to examine opioid prescribing patterns in children after tonsillectomy and return visits for complications. Opioids are commonly used after tonsillectomy, although American Academy of Otolaryngology clinical practice guidelines recommend nonopioids such as NSAIDs. This analysis included 2016 and 2017 claims data coded for tonsillectomy for nearly 16,000 children; nearly 60 percent of whom had one or more prescription drug claims for opioids between seven days before to one day after tonsillectomy. Having one or more prescription fills wasn't associated with return visits for pain or dehydration or bleeding compared with children not using opioids but it was associated with increased risk of return visits for constipation. The study authors suggest reducing opioid prescribing to children after tonsillectomy may be possible without increasing risk of complications. The study has several limitations, including that children may not use opioids even when prescriptions are filled.
Authors: Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and coauthors
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