Objective: To evaluate the prescribing practices and opioid consumption in an ambulatory setting to inform the development of evidence-based guidelines. Design: A prospective study of adults undergoing outpatient open and laparoscopic surgeries over 3 months. One week after discharge, a telephonic interview quantified the number of opioids prescribed and consumed, degree of pain control and satisfaction, and whether additional pain medication was requested. Setting: Community hospital ambulatory surgery center in Westchester County, New York. Participants: This study included 304 adults undergoing a variety of procedures by surgeons from multiple specialties. Main outcome measures: Quantify surgeons’ postoperative opioid prescribing compared with patient opioid consumption. Results: Eighty-one percent (N = 245) responded to the survey, of which 64 percent were prescribed opioids. Males and females were equally represented with the mean age of 59.4 years. Of those prescribed opioids, 92 percent filled the prescription. The most commonly prescribed opioids reported by the patients that filled their prescription (N = 145) were oxycodone (36.5 percent), oxycodone/acetaminophen (28.9 percent), and tramadol (22.7 percent). The mean number of opioid pills prescribed was 20 and the mean consumption was 6.7 pills, resulting in an average of 13 retained pills. Only 3.8 percent of the patients prescribed opioids at discharge called their provider for additional analgesia. Despite the low opioid consumption patients reported high satisfaction (4.5 on scale of 0-5) with pain control. Only 10.4 percent reported that the surgeon recommended an over the counter (OTC) analgesic option. There was variability in the amount of opioids prescribed within each surgical category. Conclusions: One week after outpatient surgery, patients consumed one-third of physician-prescribed opioids, yet they reported high pain management satisfaction. Our study will inform the development of a patient-centered interdisciplinary perioperative education program to more effectively tailor multimodal pain management in ambulatory surgical patients and collaterally reduce the number of retained opioids.
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