Empowering Post-Surgical Patients to Improve Opioid Disposal: A Before and After Quality Improvement Study

Jessica M Hasak, Carrie L Roth Bettlach, Katherine B Santosa, Ellen L Larson, Jean Stroud, Susan E Mackinnon
Journal of the American College of Surgeons 2018, 226 (3): 235-240.e3

BACKGROUND: Our country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Although the problem is multifactorial, one issue is the presence of excess prescription opioid medications circulating in our communities. Our objective was to determine whether dissemination of an educational brochure would improve the disposal of unused opioids after surgery.

STUDY DESIGN: Eligible surgery patients from an upper extremity/peripheral nerve clinic were enrolled into this prospective before and after study between February 2017 and September 2017. Patients who reported opioid use preoperatively were excluded from this study. The same survey was administered to the group of patients who did not receive the intervention and to those who did receive the intervention. Our primary endpoint was the proportion of patients who disposed of unused opioid medications.

RESULTS: A total of 334 patients were studied: 164 who did not receive the brochure and 170 who received the brochure. Seventy-six patients were excluded for preoperative opioid use. After dissemination of the brochure, there was a significant increase in the proportion of patients who disposed of their unused opioids (11% vs 22%, p = 0.02). Of those who disposed of their opioids, there was no significant difference in the proportion of patients from each group who disposed in a manner that was recommended by the brochure (43% vs 64%, p = 0.19).

CONCLUSIONS: Dissemination of the educational brochure improved disposal of unused opioids after surgery. This low-cost, easily implemented intervention can improve disposal of unused opioids and ultimately, decrease the amount of excess opioids circulating in our communities.

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