The opioid epidemic in the United States is a public health crisis. As a result, regulatory agencies, including state governments, have enacted initiatives to decrease the use of opioids in the perioperative setting. The purpose of this study was to compare opioid utilization in orthopaedic surgery patients at discrete points after implementation of State regulatory and institution/physician-led initiatives to decrease opioid utilization in the perioperative period.
We reviewed the electronic medication orders for all patients who underwent orthopaedic surgery procedures between September 2015 and June 2018 at our urban academic medical center. The outcome measures were the number of patients who were prescribed opioid medications, duration of prescription (days), and average milligram morphine equivalents prescribed. Patients were divided into three time cohorts to assess the effect of the NY State (NYS) policy and institutional initiatives to decrease opioid utilization.
A total of 20,483 patients met the inclusion criteria over all three time cohorts. After the initiation of the NYS 7-day supply legislation, there was a decrease in the average supply of opioids prescribed from 10.1 to 7.6 days and the average daily milligram morphine equivalent decreased from 67.9 to 56.7 mg (P < 0.0001). However, with the combination of physician education and surgeon-led institutional initiatives, the percentage of patients who were prescribed opioids decreased by over 10% (96% to 84%), with continued decrease in duration of prescription by 1.0 to 6.4 days (P < 0.0001).
The addition of institution-led initiatives and education programs to previously established government-led prescription limits produced a substantial reduction in the amount of opioids prescribed to orthopaedic surgery patients in the perioperative period. Although mandatory limits set by the state government resulted in a decreased amount of opioid medications being prescribed per patient, it was only after the introduction of educational programs and institution- and physician-led programs that perioperative patient exposure to opioids decreased.
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