Post-Discharge Opioid Prescribing and Use after Common Surgical Procedure

Mayo H Fujii, Ashley C Hodges, Ruby L Russell, Kristin Roensch, Bruce Beynnon, Thomas P Ahern, Peter Holoch, Jesse S Moore, S Elizabeth Ames, Charles D MacLean
Journal of the American College of Surgeons 2018, 226 (6): 1004-1012

BACKGROUND: The number of deaths from prescription opioids in the US continues to increase and remains a major public health concern. Opioid-related deaths parallel prescribing trends, and postoperative opioids are a significant source of opioids in the community. Our objective was to identify opioid prescribing and use patterns after surgery to inform evidence-based practices.

STUDY DESIGN: Data from a 340-bed academic medical institution and its affiliated outpatient surgical facility included retrospective medical record data and prospective telephone questionnaire and medical record data. Retrospective data included patients discharged after 1 of 19 procedure types, from July 2015 to June 2016 (n = 10,112). Prospective data included a consecutive sample of general and orthopaedic surgery and urology patients undergoing 1 of 13 procedures, from July 2016 to February 2017 (n = 539). Primary outcomes were the quantity of opioid prescribed and used in morphine milligram equivalents (MME), and the proportion of patients receiving instructions on disposal and nonopioid strategies.

RESULTS: In the retrospective dataset, 76% of patients received an opioid after surgery, and 87% of prescriptions were prescribed by residents or advanced practice providers. Median prescription size ranged from 0 to 503 MME, with wide interquartile ranges (IQR) for most procedures. In the prospective dataset, there were 359 participants (67% participation rate). Of these, 92% of patients received an opioid and the median proportion used was 27%, or 24 MME (IQR 0 to 96). Only 18% of patients received disposal instructions, while 84% of all patients received instructions on nonopioid strategies.

CONCLUSIONS: Median opioid use after surgery was 27% of the total prescribed, and only 18% of patients reported receiving disposal instructions. Significant variability in opioid prescribing and use after surgery warrants investigation into contributing factors.

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