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Monitoring Postoperative Opioid Use Following Simple Arthroscopic Meniscectomy: A Performance-Improvement Strategy for Prescribing Recommendations and Community Safety.

JB & JS Open Access 2018 December 21
Background: Orthopaedic surgeons are confronted with a difficult dilemma: managing acute pain postoperatively and balancing the risk of prescription opioid use. To our knowledge, a prospective performance-improvement project providing opioid-prescription recommendations based on the actual amounts of usual and customary medication consumed following simple knee meniscectomy has not been described.

Methods: One hundred and two patients undergoing arthroscopic knee meniscectomy prospectively recorded postoperative pain medications in a pain journal. Arthroscopic procedures were performed at 2 centers by 9 fellowship-trained senior surgeons. Various usual and customary prescribing protocols were observed, and the amount of medication consumed was recorded. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medication, quantity, frequency, and visual analog scale (VAS) pain scores were collected.

Results: One hundred and two patients filled a prescription opioid medication and were included in the study. A total of 3,765 pills were prescribed, and a total of 573.5 were consumed. For the 102 patients who filled a prescription, the average time consuming opioid medication was 2 ± 2 days (range, 0 to 13 days) postoperatively. No cases of persistent use were recorded. Of the 102 patients who filled a prescription, 29.4% did not take any prescription opioids postoperatively. A total of 3,191.5 pills (or 22,183.75 morphine milligram equivalents [MME]) were unused and were potentially available to the community.

Conclusions: Following simple knee arthroscopy, the amount of prescribed opioid medication exceeds the need for postoperative pain management. In general, 68% of patients require a maximum of 13 pills postoperatively for 6 days. Surgeons should adjust prescribing standards accordingly to limit the amount of prescription opioids available to the community. Furthermore, a comprehensive response to include increased patient screening and monitoring as well as opioid use and disposal education is recommended.

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