Dispose with dish soap: A simple and convenient method to increase proper opioid disposal in postoperative pediatric patients

Alexandra M. Keane, Ellen L. Larson, Rachael M. Payne, Samantha Cooke, Ema Zubovic, Kamlesh B. Patel, Susan E. Mackinnon, Alison K. Snyder-Warwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The opioid abuse crisis is rampant in the United States. Children and adolescents are unique risk groups in this crisis; age-specific concerns include accidental ingestion and association with high-risk behaviors. Studies aimed at disposal are limited in pediatric patients. Our study aimed to determine whether an educational brochure detailing a simple opioid disposal method using dish soap could enhance disposal in postoperative pediatric patients. Methods: A prospective survey study of pediatric plastic surgery patients at the St. Louis Children's Hospital was performed from January to December 2020. Patients were assigned into two groups: those who received the educational brochure at the time of surgery and those who did not. In clinic, patient caretakers completed anonymous preoperative and/or postoperative surveys regarding opioid use and disposal. Results: Surveys of 326 patients were analyzed (188 preoperative, 120 pre/postoperative, and 18 postoperative). Prescribed opioids were all consumed in 19% of patients. Receiving the educational brochure significantly increased the opioid disposal of leftover medications: 78% versus 35% (OR 6.52, 95% CI [2.03, 21.37], p < 0.001). Although not statistically significant owing to small sample size (p = 0.09), 71.4% of families with excess opioids in the home preoperatively retained unused postoperative opioids versus 31.6% without preoperative opioids. Conclusions: Postoperative opioids are overprescribed for most pediatric plastic surgery patients. A simple brochure significantly increases proper postoperative opioid disposal, representing a cost-effective, convenient, risk-free method to decrease opioid misuse and accumulation in our communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3845-3852
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Opioid disposal
  • Opioid safety
  • Opioids
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Plastic surgery


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