Focused Changes in Opioid Prescribing Yield Far-reaching Benefits Through Culture Change and Attention to Opioid Minimization

Rowan R. Sheldon*, Christopher W. Marenco, Woo S. Do, Dominic M. Forte, Jessica B. Weiss, Vance Y. Sohn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Standardization of prescriptions after specific procedures (laparoscopic appendectomy, cholecystectomy, inguinal/umbilical hernia repair) significantly reduces opioid prescriptions for these targeted procedures. We sought to determine the impact of increased attention to responsible opioid prescribing in the absence of protocolization. DESIGN: Prescription practices of Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomies and Roux-en-y Gastric Bypasses at a tertiary medical center (October 1, 2016–September 30, 2018) were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were grouped into whether surgical intervention took place before or after institution of an unrelated opioid protocol in November 2017. Patients with chronic opioid use or extended hospital stay (>4 days) were excluded. Discharge prescriptions, oral morphine equivalents (OME), and need for repeat prescriptions were compared. SETTING: This study was set at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington. PARTICIPANTS: All general surgery residents engaged in clinical duties at our institution during the dates of the study were included. RESULTS: Study population included 187 patients, with 91 patients undergoing surgery prior to the protocol and 88 post-protocol. Preprotocol patients were provided an average of 413 OME (SD 103) and 5.5% required repeat opioid prescriptions within 3 months of surgery. The most common opioid prescription was 300 mL of oxycodone elixir (450 OME, 88%). Postprotocol, opioid prescriptions fell 61% to an average of 161 OME (SD 71, p < 0.001). Repeat opioid requirements remained statistically unchanged (8.0%, p = 0.562). The most common opioid prescription postprotocol included 20 oxycodone tablets (150 OME, 76%). CONCLUSIONS: Opioid reduction efforts reap benefits beyond those procedures specifically targeted. Focus on responsible opioid prescribing through standardization, even when limited to certain procedures, may result in a hospital culture change with global opioid prescription reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e209-e213
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Culture Change
  • Opioid Minimization
  • Prescription Standardization
  • Quality Improvement
  • Resident-led


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