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Monitoring Postoperative Opioid Use Following Simple Arthroscopic Meniscectomy

A Performance-Improvement Strategy for Prescribing Recommendations and Community Safety

Gardner, Vance, MD1; Gazzaniga, David, MD1; Shepard, Michael, MD1; Grumet, Robert, MD1; Rubin, Benjamin, MD1; Dempewolf, Michael, DO2; Bray, Camille, BA1; Prietto, Carlos, MD1

doi: 10.2106/JBJS.OA.18.00033
Scientific Articles: PDF Only

Background: Orthopaedic surgeons are confronted with a difficult dilemma: managing acute pain postoperatively and balancing the risk of prescription opioid use. To our knowledge, a prospective performance-improvement project providing opioid-prescription recommendations based on the actual amounts of usual and customary medication consumed following simple knee meniscectomy has not been described.

Methods: One hundred and two patients undergoing arthroscopic knee meniscectomy prospectively recorded postoperative pain medications in a pain journal. Arthroscopic procedures were performed at 2 centers by 9 fellowship-trained senior surgeons. Various usual and customary prescribing protocols were observed, and the amount of medication consumed was recorded. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medication, quantity, frequency, and visual analog scale (VAS) pain scores were collected.

Results: One hundred and two patients filled a prescription opioid medication and were included in the study. A total of 3,765 pills were prescribed, and a total of 573.5 were consumed. For the 102 patients who filled a prescription, the average time consuming opioid medication was 2 ± 2 days (range, 0 to 13 days) postoperatively. No cases of persistent use were recorded. Of the 102 patients who filled a prescription, 29.4% did not take any prescription opioids postoperatively. A total of 3,191.5 pills (or 22,183.75 morphine milligram equivalents [MME]) were unused and were potentially available to the community.

Conclusions: Following simple knee arthroscopy, the amount of prescribed opioid medication exceeds the need for postoperative pain management. In general, 68% of patients require a maximum of 13 pills postoperatively for 6 days. Surgeons should adjust prescribing standards accordingly to limit the amount of prescription opioids available to the community. Furthermore, a comprehensive response to include increased patient screening and monitoring as well as opioid use and disposal education is recommended.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

1Hoag Orthopedics, Irvine, California

2Mid-America Orthopedics Kansas City, Leawood, Kansas

E-mail address for V. Gardner:

Investigation performed at Hoag Orthopedics, Irvine, California

Disclosure: No external funding was used for this study. On the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest forms, which are provided with the online version of the article, one or more of the authors checked “yes” to indicate that the author had a relevant financial relationship in the biomedical arena outside the submitted work (

© 2018 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated.