While opioid addiction is now a public health emergency, little has been reported about the association between opioids and ocular surgery. However, a new study in JAMA Ophthalmology reports an increasing trend of filled opioid prescriptions for patients who underwent ocular surgery.

The investigation found race/ethnicity, education, yearly income and geographic location factored into the rate of filled opioid prescriptions.

The cohort investigation included the records of patients within a large national medical claims database from 2000 to 2016. An opioid prescription was eligible if it was written at least one day before to a week after surgery. The investigation included 2,407,962 incisional ocular surgeries over the sixteen-year period. Out of these, 45,776 (1.90%) were associated with an opioid prescription. Researchers also reported the rate of filled opioid prescriptions varied considerably over time, with the lowest rate occurring from 2000 and 2001 (1.24%) and the highest in 2014 (2.51%). In 2016, the rate dropped marginally, with 5,851 opioid prescriptions filled based on 45,776 surgeries (2.07%).

The study found the year of surgery was significantly associated with opioid prescriptions, with the highest odds in 2014 (3.71), 2015 (3.33) and 2016 (3.27) compared with 2000 and 2001.

“These findings suggest the rate of filled opioid prescriptions are increasing for all types of incisional ocular surgery over time. Given the ongoing national opioid epidemic, understanding patterns of use can help in reversing the epidemic,” researchers concluded.

Kolomeyer AM, Yu Y, VanderBeek BL. Association of opioids with incisional ocular surger. JAMA Ophthalmol. September 19, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].