Establishment and Implementation of Evidence-Based Opioid Prescribing Guidelines in Cardiac Surgery

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The Annals of thoracic surgery


BACKGROUND: Despite the risk of new persistent opioid use after cardiac surgery, post-discharge opioid use has not been quantified and evidence-based prescribing guidelines have not been established.

METHODS: Opioid-naïve patients undergoing primary cardiac surgery via median sternotomy between January-December 2019 at 10 hospitals participating in a statewide collaborative were selected. Clinical data were linked to patient-reported outcomes collected at 30-day follow-up. An opioid prescribing recommendation stratified by inpatient opioid use on the day before discharge (0, 1-3, or ≥4 pills) was implemented in July 2019. Interrupted time-series analyses were performed for prescription size and post-discharge opioid use before (January-June) and after (July-December) guideline implementation.

RESULTS: Among 1495 patients (729 prerecommendation and 766 postrecommendation), median prescription size decreased from 20 pills to 12 pills after recommendation release (P < .001), while opioid use decreased from 3 pills to 0 pills (P < .001). Change in prescription size over time was +0.6 pill/month before and -0.8 pill/month after the recommendation (difference = -1.4 pills/month; P = .036). Change in patient use was +0.6 pill/month before and -0.4 pill/month after the recommendation (difference = -1.0 pills/month; P = .017). Pain levels during the first week after surgery and refills were unchanged. Patients using 0 pills before discharge (n = 710) were prescribed a median of 0 pills and used 0 pills, while those using 1 to 3 pills (n = 536) were prescribed 20 pills and used 7 pills, and those using greater than or equal to 4 pills (n = 249) were prescribed 32 pills and used 24 pills.

CONCLUSIONS: An opioid prescribing recommendation was effective, and prescribing after cardiac surgery should be guided by inpatient use.

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ePub ahead of print