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Addressing the Opioid Epidemic: A Review of the Role of Plastic Surgery

Wang, Annie M. Q., B.Sc.; Retrouvey, Helene, M.D.C.M.; Wanzel, Kyle R., M.D., M.Ed.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: May 2018 - Volume 141 - Issue 5 - p 1295-1301
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000004332
Plastic Surgery Focus: Special Topics
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Summary: The opioid epidemic has been a growing public health threat in the United States and Canada for the past 30 years, with alarming and steadily increasing opioid-related mortality rates. Originating with well-intentioned efforts by physicians to relieve pain and suffering in their patients, the source of the opioid epidemic and much of its ammunition continues to be the sales of legally produced pharmaceutical opioids. Although surgeons are increasingly recognizing the important role they can play in mitigating this crisis, the recognition and evaluation of the opioid epidemic in plastic surgery has been lacking. The authors identified several aspects of plastic surgery that make judicious prescription of opioids in this field uniquely complex, including high variability of cases managed, large volume of ambulatory procedures, and frequent involvement in collaborative care with other surgical specialties. Additional research in plastic surgery is needed to both increase current knowledge of opioid prescribing practices and provide evidence for recommendations that can successfully combat the opioid epidemic.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

From the Faculty of Medicine and the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Toronto; and St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Received for publication September 6, 2017; accepted December 1, 2017.

Disclosure:The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article. No funding was received for this article.

By reading this article, you are entitled to claim one (1) hour of Category 2 Patient Safety Credit. ASPS members can claim this credit by logging in to Dashboard, clicking “Submit CME,” and completing the form.

A “Hot Topic Video“ by Editor-in-Chief Rod J. Rohrich, M.D., accompanies this article. Go to and click on “Plastic Surgery Hot Topics” in the “Digital Media” tab to watch. On the iPad, tap on the Hot Topics icon.

Kyle R. Wanzel, M.D., M.Ed., St. Joseph’s Health Centre, 30 Queensway, Toronto, Ontario M6R 1B5, Canada,

Copyright © 2018 by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons