BACKGROUND: Approximately 50 million US patients undergo ambulatory surgery annually. Postoperative opioid overprescribing is problematic, yet many patients report inadequate pain relief. In major inpatient surgery, intraoperative single-dose methadone produces better analgesia and reduces opioid use compared with conventional repeated dosing of short-duration opioids. This investigation tested the hypothesis that in same-day ambulatory surgery, intraoperative methadone, compared with short-duration opioids, reduces opioid consumption and pain, and determined an effective intraoperative induction dose of methadone for same-day ambulatory surgery. METHODS: A double-blind, dose-escalation protocol randomized 60 patients (2:1) to intraoperative single-dose intravenous methadone (initially 0.1 then 0.15 mg/kg ideal body weight) or conventional as-needed dosing of short-duration opioids (eg, fentanyl, hydromorphone; controls). Intraoperative and postoperative opioid consumption, pain, and opioid side effects were assessed before discharge. Patient home diaries recorded pain, opioid use, and opioid side effects daily for 30 days postoperatively. Primary outcome was in-hospital (intraoperative and postoperative) opioid use. Secondary outcomes were 30 days opioid consumption, pain intensity, and opioid side effects. RESULTS: Median (interquartile range) methadone doses were 6 (5-6) and 9 (8-9) mg in the 0.1 and 0.15 mg/kg methadone groups, respectively. Total opioid consumption (morphine equivalents) in the postanesthesia care unit was significantly less compared with controls (9.3 mg, 1.3-11.0) in subjects receiving 0.15 mg/kg methadone (0.1 mg, 0.1-3.3; P < .001) but not 0.1 mg/kg methadone (5.0 mg, 3.3-8.1; P = .60). Dose-escalation ended at 0.15 mg/kg methadone. Total in-hospital nonmethadone opioid use after short-duration opioid, 0.1 mg/kg methadone, and 0.15 mg/kg methadone was 35.3 (25.0-44.0), 7.1 (3.7-10.0), and 3.3 (0.1-5.8) mg morphine equivalents, respectively (P < .001 for both versus control). In-hospital pain scores and side effects were not different between groups. In the 30 days after discharge, patients who received methadone 0.15 mg/kg had less pain at rest (P = .02) and used fewer opioid pills than controls (P < .0001), whereas patients who received 0.1 mg/kg had no difference in pain at rest (P = .69) and opioid use compared to controls (P = .08). CONCLUSIONS: In same-day discharge surgery, this pilot study identified a single intraoperative dose of methadone (0.15 mg/kg ideal body weight), which decreased intraoperative and postoperative opioid requirements and postoperative pain, compared with conventional intermittent short-duration opioids, with similar side effects.