Conference Coverage

Opioid management program reduced number of narcotics prescribed after breast surgery



An opioid prescription management program implemented at the Cleveland Clinic has led to a reduction in the number of narcotics prescribed to patients after breast surgery, according to research presented in a recent webcast from the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons.

Pill bottles spill opioid tablets and capsules sdominick/iStock/Getty Images

“The opioid epidemic has become a critical issue, and narcotic abuse has continued to rise,” Stephanie Valente, DO, FACS, from the Cleveland Clinic, said in her presentation. “Excess narcotic prescriptions may be contributing to this opioid epidemic,” and there are no current narcotic prescribing guidelines for patients after breast surgery, she said. In addition, studies have shown surgeons can overestimate the number of opioid pills a patient needs after surgery for pain control, and any excess pills are at risk of being stolen or inappropriately used, she added.

Dr. Valente and colleagues performed a baseline evaluation of narcotic pills prescribed by surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic for patients who have undergone excisional biopsy or lumpectomy, mastectomy, and mastectomy with reconstruction. They found the median number of narcotics prescribed were 15 pills for excisional biopsy or lumpectomy patients, 20 pills for mastectomy patients and 28 pills for mastectomy with reconstruction patients.

The researchers sought to lower those numbers, and created a departmental change in which they decreased the median number of pills prescribed at discharge from 15 pills to 10 pills for excisional biopsy or lumpectomy patients and from 28 pills to 25 pills for patients who undergo mastectomy with reconstruction. They then examined 100 consecutive patients after a 3-month implementation period to determine whether prescribing numbers had changed and found the surgeons adhered to the prescribing guidelines, which resulted in a statistically significant reduction in median opioid pills prescribed for excisional biopsy or lumpectomy (P less than .01) and mastectomy with reconstruction patients (P less than .01).

“After their departmental plan change, we observed that, as planned, a statistically significant decrease in prescribing practices amongst surgeons was able to be performed, showing that surgeons were able to adhere to these new prescribing practices,” said Dr. Valente.

When they examined the number of pills patients reported they used after surgery, they found excisional biopsy or lumpectomy patients took an average of 1 pill, mastectomy patients took an average of 3 pills, and mastectomy with reconstruction patients took an average of 18 pills. “These were all statistically much less than what was being prescribed even after our purposeful reduction,” said Dr. Valente.

In the study, 40% of patients who underwent breast surgery overall reported that they did not have any postoperative narcotic use at all, with the least narcotic use seen among patients who underwent excisional biopsy or lumpectomy.

“Further directions for opiate reduction can include evaluation of the impact of type and amount of local anesthetic given intraoperatively, and the amount of narcotics used postoperatively … to identify patient factors that contribute to the low narcotic usage postoperatively, and finally, to figure out how to maximize the benefit of adding a formal ERAS [enhanced recovery after surgery] protocol to further reduce patient needs for as many narcotic pills,” said Dr. Valente.

Dr. Valente had no disclosures.

Next Article: