Overprescribing contributes to the misuse and overuse of narcotics. We hypothesized that implementation of postoperative prescribing guidelines would consistently reduce the amount of opioids prescribed after ambulatory hand surgery.
A divisional protocol was instituted in November 2018. A retrospective cohort study was designed to examine the policy's effects on postoperative prescribing. Postoperative opioid prescriptions for patients undergoing ambulatory hand surgery were evaluated 1 year before and 1 year after policy initiation. All prescriptions were converted into the total oral morphine equivalent (OME) prescribed.
A total of 1,672 surgeries were included. Six hundred sixty-one cases were in preimplementation group, and 1,011 cases were in the postimplementation group. The median of total OME decreased significantly after distribution of prescribing guidelines from 75 in the preimplementation group to 45 in the postimplementation group (p < .001) with significant reductions seen for carpal tunnel release (p < .001), trigger finger release (p < .001), distal radius open reduction internal fixation (p < .001), and finger closed reduction and pinning (p < .001). When categorized by procedure type, the median of total OME decreased from 75 to 30 for soft tissue procedures (p < .001) and from 120 to 100 for bony procedures (p < .001).
Divisional prescribing guidelines lead to consistent short-term to mid-term reductions in the amount of opioid medication prescribed postoperatively.