DOI: 10.33940/001c.89737 ISSN: 2641-4716

A Resident-Driven Quality Initiative for Reducing Opioid Prescribing in Patients Undergoing Elective General Surgery Procedures, With Long-Term Follow-Up

Ryan Lamm, Megan Lundgren, Adrienne Christopher, Jacob Woodroof, Lindsay Edwards, Christopher Kustera, Charles J. Yeo, Kristin M. Noonan, Harish Lavu, Caitlyn Costanzo, Scott Cowan
  • General Medicine


The opioid epidemic has been declared a public health emergency in the United States—and major news outlets have labeled operating rooms as “unintended gateways.” In response to this emergency, our academic institution sought to decrease our contribution to the potential diversion pool—the opioids surgeons prescribe to patients which go unused.


Patients undergoing common surgical procedures between August 2017 and March 2018 were identified. Patients were contacted by phone and consented, and opioid use data was collected. The potential diversion pool was calculated as pills prescribed minus pills consumed for each patient and procedure, and subgroup analysis was performed to correlate the number of opioid pills taken within 24 hours before hospital discharge to the number taken after discharge.


Surveys were completed for 357 patients. Overall, 6,831 of the 12,061 tablets prescribed were unused (57%). Patients who took 7 or more doses of oral opioids in the last 24 hours before discharge had significantly fewer (30%) pills remaining compared to patients who took 0–6 doses (68% remaining). Ninety-nine of 111 patients (89%) who took 0 tablets 24 hours prior to discharge left with an opioid prescription, creating a diversion pool of 2,419 pills remaining out of 3,353 prescribed (72%). Based on a 95% confidence interval of procedural opioid consumption, prescribing guidelines were created within a toolkit designed to set preoperative expectations, promote use of nonopioid analgesics, and provide opioid disposal information. We have continued to track our data, with low opioid prescribing patterns.


Surgical departments can develop opioid reduction toolkits aimed at reducing the potential diversion pool of opioids in our communities. Such toolkits have a sustained positive impact.

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