Opioid Prescribing Variation After Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy in the US Military Health System

William A. Cronin, Matthew D. Nealeigh, Justin L. Zeien, Jonathan M. Goc, Maxwell Y. Amoako, Alexander G. Velosky, Melina C. Williman, Kyle L. Cyr, Krista B. Highland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: After laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC), there is a wide variation in opioid prescription miligram morphine equivalent dose (MED) and refills across US medical institutions. Given wide variation and opioid prescription guidelines, it is essential to conduct thorough health services research across medical, surgical, and patient-level factors that can be implemented to improve system-wide prescribing practices. Therefore, this study describes discharge MED variation and opioid refill probability after emergent and nonemergent LC. Materials and methods: This retrospective cohort study included medical record data of adult patients (N = 20,025) undergoing LC from January 2016 to June 2021 in the US Military Health System. Data visualizations and bivariate analyses examined prescription patterns across hospitals and evaluated the relationship between patient-level, care-level, and system-level factors and each outcome: discharge MED and opioid refill probability. Two generalized additive mixed models evaluated the relationship between predictors and each outcome. Results: There was a significant variation in opioid and nonopioid pain medication prescribing practices across hospitals. While several factors were associated with discharge MED and opioid refill probability, the strongest effects were related to time period (before versus after a June 2018 Defense Health Agency policy release) and receipt of an opioid/nonopioid combination medication. Despite decreases in MED, the MED remained almost twice the recommended dose per prior research. Conclusions: Variation by hospital suggests the need for system-level changes that target genuine practice change and opioid stewardship. Inclusion of patient-reported outcomes, electronic health record decision support tools, and academic detailing programs may support system-level improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - May 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
  • Opioid
  • Opioid refill
  • Pain medication


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