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What evidence is needed to inform postoperative opioid consumption guidelines? A cohort study of the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative


Introduction To balance adequate pain management while minimizing opioid-related harms after surgery, opioid prescribing guidelines rely on patient-reported use after surgery. However, it is unclear how many patients are required to develop precise guidelines. We aimed to compare patterns of use, required sample size, and the precision for patient-reported opioid consumption after common surgical procedures.

Methods We analyzed procedure-specific 30-day opioid consumption data reported after discharge from 15 common surgical procedures between January 2018 and May 2019 across 65 hospitals in the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative. We calculated proportions of patients using no pills and the estimated number of pills meeting most patients’ needs, defined as the 75th percentile of consumption. We compared several methods to model consumption patterns. Using the best method (Tweedie), we calculated sample sizes required to identify opioid consumption within a 5-pill interval and estimates of pills to meet most patients’ needs by calculating the width of 95% CIs.

Results In a cohort of 10,688 patients, many patients did not consume any opioids after all types of procedures (range 20%–40%). Most patients’ needs were met with 4 pills (thyroidectomy) to 13 pills (abdominal hysterectomy). Sample sizes required to estimate opioid consumption within a 5-pill wide 95% CI ranged from 48 for laparoscopic appendectomy to 188 for open colectomy. The 95% CI width for estimates ranged from 0.7 pills for laparoscopic cholecystectomy to 7.0 pills for ileostomy/colostomy.

Conclusions This study demonstrates that profiles of opioid consumption share more similarities than differences for certain surgical procedures. Future investigations on patient-reported consumption are required for procedures not currently included in prescribing guidelines to ensure surgeons and perioperative providers can appropriately tailor recommendations to the postoperative needs of patients.

  • Pain, Postoperative
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Acute Pain

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data may be obtained from the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative.

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