Discharge Prescribing Protocol Decreases Opioids in Circulation and Does Not Increase Refills After Colorectal Surgery

Philip S. Bauer, Aneel Damle, Jonathan S. Abelson, Ebun E. Otegbeye, Radhika K. Smith, Sean C. Glasgow, Paul E. Wise, Steven R. Hunt, Matthew G. Mutch, Matthew L. Silviera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Up to 10% of patients develop new, persistent opioid use after surgery. We aimed to assess our prescribing practices and patient utilization of opioids after colorectal surgery. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to implement an opioid-prescribing protocol that will minimize the number of postoperative opioids to decrease community circulation and persistent use by patients. DESIGN: This was a single-institution, prospective study based on questionnaires of postoperative patients in 2019 and 2020 to determine opioid prescribing and usage patterns. Based on these preliminary results, a protocol was implemented in which patients were discharged with 5 or 15 oxycodone 5 mg equivalents based on opioid usage in the 24 hours before discharge. Patients were surveyed after protocol implementation. SETTINGS: Our institution is a large referral center for surgical treatment of colorectal disease. PATIENTS: Adults who underwent inpatient abdominal colorectal procedures. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: End points included the number of opioids prescribed, number of prescribed opioids taken, and refill rate. Nonparametric testing was used. RESULTS: Of 77 eligible patients, 61 were opioid naive. Preprotocol, opioid-naive patients (n = 29) were prescribed a median of 30 (interquartile range [IQR], 30-45) tablets but took only 10 (IQR, 0-10; p < 0.0001). Eighty-three percent took 20 or fewer tablets. After protocol implementation, opioid-naive patients (n = 32) were prescribed fewer tablets (median 15; IQR, 7-15; p < 0.0001) but took a similar number of tablets as the preprotocol group (median 10; IQR, 0-10; p = 0.21). The refill rate remained similar (13.8% vs 18.8%; p = 0.60). Protocol adherence was 90.6%. LIMITATIONS: This study is limited by sample size, cohort heterogeneity, and generalizability. CONCLUSIONS: Patients took significantly fewer opioids than were prescribed. Our protocol limited overprescribing and resulted in fewer opioids in the community without opportunity costs such as increased refills. Long-term studies are needed to assess the effects of persistent opioid use after surgery. See Video Abstract at http://links.lww.com/DCR/C93.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)840-847
Number of pages8
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023


  • Opioids
  • Postoperative pain
  • Prescribing protocol
  • Quality improvement


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