Video Abstract

Video Abstract

Close modal

Surgery is one of the most common indications for opioid prescribing to pediatric patients. We identified which procedures account for the most pediatric surgical opioid prescribing.


We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of commercial and Medicaid claims in the Merative MarketScan Commercial and Multi-State Medicaid Databases. Analyses included surgical procedures for patients aged 0 to 21 years from December 1, 2020, to November 30, 2021. Procedures were identified using a novel crosswalk between 3664 procedure codes and 1082 procedure types. For each procedure type in the crosswalk, we calculated the total amount of opioids in prescriptions dispensed within 3 days of discharge from surgery, as measured in morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs). We then calculated the share of all MMEs accounted for by each procedure type. We conducted analyses separately among patients aged 0 to 11 and 12 to 21 years.


Among 107 597 procedures for patients aged 0 to 11 years, the top 3 procedures accounted for 59.1% of MMEs in opioid prescriptions dispensed after surgery: Tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy (50.3%), open treatment of upper extremity fracture (5.3%), and removal of deep implants (3.5%). Among 111 406 procedures for patients aged 12 to 21 years, the top 3 procedures accounted for 33.1% of MMEs: Tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy (12.7%), knee arthroscopy (12.6%), and cesarean delivery (7.8%).


Pediatric surgical opioid prescribing is concentrated among a small number of procedures. Targeting these procedures in opioid stewardship initiatives could help minimize the risks of opioid prescribing while maintaining effective postoperative pain control.

You do not currently have access to this content.