How Houston Methodist reduced opioid prescriptions by nearly 77%

A program at Houston Methodist Hospital emphasizing the use of over-the-counter medication to manage patients' pain after surgery has helped the hospital reduce opioid prescriptions from 87 percent to about 10 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Researchers examined opioids prescribed at discharge for patients undergoing minimally invasive esophageal and gastroenterology-related procedures from 2012 to 2018 at the hospital. They examined the prescriptions of 414 patients.

The pain management program included the use of long-acting local anesthetics at the site of surgery and scheduled doses of non-narcotic pain medication in the hospital and at home.

Researchers found that 9.6 percent of 94 patients who underwent the new pain management program went home with opioids, compared to 87 percent of the 239 patients studied who received care before the new pain management program was implemented.

The patients in the new program also had a low postoperative complication rate (3.2 percent), compared to the group that did not go through the new program, which had a postoperative complication rate of 15.1 percent.

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