Heart and Lung Surgery Patients at Higher Risk of Opioid Dependence

Aug 22, 2019

A new study has found that patients undergoing heart and lung surgery are almost twice as likely to develop an opioid dependence as patients undergoing general surgery. 

The study, published this month in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, found that about 16 percent of patients who had lung surgery and 13 percent of patients who had heart surgery became persistent opioid users. 

Persistent opioid use describes someone who was not taking opioids before surgery, but continued to use the opioid prescription after physical recovery is complete.

The biggest risk factor for chronic use was how many pills a patient was prescribed, according to the study. Patients who were prescribed more than 60 pills experienced a nearly two-fold risk of chronic use compared to those who were prescribed 27 or fewer.

The number of pills prescribed weren’t the only risk factor, though. Patients who filled prescriptions before surgery rather than after also had a higher risk as did people who had open surgeries, were younger, female and used tobacco.


Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.