Opioid stewardship in pediatric surgery: Approaching zero Academic Article uri icon

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  • INTRODUCTION: In response to the opioid epidemic, we hypothesized that adequate pain control can be achieved with few, if any, opioid prescriptions at discharge following pediatric surgical procedures. METHODS: All records for patients 0-15 years old who underwent pediatric surgical operations from December 2017 through May 2018 were reviewed. Opioids prescriptions, emergency department (ED) visits, and hospital readmissions were recorded. Postoperative pain was assessed on a scale from 0 to 10 via phone call within three days of discharge. RESULTS: 352 patients underwent 394 surgical procedures. Three patients were prescribed opioids at discharge. There were no pain-related readmissions. One patient returned to the ED owing to pain. 116 unique pain scores were obtained from 114 patients: score 0 (n = 69, 59%), 1-3 (n = 31, 27%), 4-5 (n = 11, 9%), 6-8 (n = 5, 4%), and 9-10 (n = 0, 0%). There was a positive association between pain and increasing age (r = 0.26, p = 0.005). No patients who underwent hernia repair reported a pain score greater than 3. CONCLUSIONS: Adequate pain control at discharge after pediatric general surgical procedures can be achieved for most children with scheduled nonopioid medications only. A limited supply of opioids for analgesia after discharge may benefit small subset of patients. This strategy would help reduce opioid prevalence in the community. TYPE OF STUDY: Retrospective cohort study. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III.


  • Calderon, Thais
  • Hedges, Elizabeth
  • Livingston, Michael
  • Gitzelmann, Christopher
  • Pegoli, Walter
  • Wakeman, Derek

publication date

  • March 2021