The purpose of this 2-part study is to determine opioid prescribing patterns and characterize actual opioid use and postoperative pain control in children following discharge after closed reduction and percutaneous pinning of a supracondylar humerus fracture.
A retrospective study was conducted from 2014 to 2016 to determine pain medication prescribing patterns at a single level 1 trauma center. Next, a prospective, observational study was conducted from 2017 to 2018 to determine actual pain medication use and pain scores in the acute postoperative period. Data were collected through telephone surveys performed on postoperative day 1, 3, and 5. Pain scores were collected using a parental proxy numerical rating scale (0 to 10) and opioid use was recorded as the number of doses taken.
From 2014 to 2016, there were 126 patients who were prescribed a mean of 47 doses of opioid medication at discharge. From 2017 to 2018, telephone questionnaires were completed in 63 patients. There was no significant difference (P>0.05) in pain ratings or opioid use by fracture type (Gartland), age, or sex. Children required a mean of 4 doses of oxycodone postoperatively. There were 18 (28%) patients who did not require any oxycodone. On average, pain scores were highest on postoperative day 1 (average 5/10) and decreased to clinically unimportant levels (<1) by postoperative day 5. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen were utilized as first-line pain medications in only 25% and 9% of patients, respectively. Two of 3 patients who used >15 oxycodone doses experienced a minor postoperative complication.
Pediatric patients have been overprescribed opioids after operative treatment of supracondylar humerus fractures at our institution. Families who report pain scores >5 of 10 and/or persistent opioid use beyond postoperative day 5 warrant further clinical evaluation. Two of 3 pain outliers in this study experienced a minor postoperative complication. With appropriate parental counseling, satisfactory pain control can likely be achieved with acetaminophen and ibuprofen for most patients. If oxycodone is prescribed for breakthrough pain, then the authors recommend limiting to <6 doses.
Level of Evidence:
Level IV—observational, cohort study.