October 18, 2017

U-M surgeons develop online guide to help caregivers prescribe fewer opioids

Post-surgery pain medication can ease recovery — but it can also lead to long-term problems. A free tool based on actual patient use can help

Opioid prescription guide

How many prescription pain pills should a patient receive after breast cancer surgery? Or hernia repair? Or gallbladder removal?

With the country facing an epidemic of opioid pain medication abuse, the answer should be simple: just enough to ease immediate post-surgery pain.

But surgical teams have lacked an evidence-based guide, or even rules of thumb, to help them gauge this amount.

Until now.

A new tool developed at the University of Michigan, now available online for free, details recommendations for 11 common operations, based on pain control and surgical quality research, as well as data and surveys from patients throughout Michigan.

“It’s embarrassing to admit this, but we’ve never had any evidence to inform how much opioid we prescribe to surgical patients. These recommendations provide a crucial first step for improving the safety of opioid prescribing,” says Jay Lee, M.D., a general surgery resident at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, who helped create the recommendations.