Background: In the past 16 years, the number of prescription opioids sold in the United States, as well as deaths from prescription opioids, has nearly quadrupled. However, the overall amount of pain reported by patients has not changed significantly. Specific information about opioid prescriptions in the perioperative period is lacking. Of the studies that have been published, investigators have shown that the majority of patients have unused postoperative opioid pills. Moreover, patients appear to lack information about disposal of unused opioid pills.
Purpose: To compare the number of pills prescribed versus the numbers left unused after outpatient shoulder surgeries at an orthopaedic surgery institution.
Study design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
Methods: In this prospective, observational study, 100 patients (age >18 years) undergoing outpatient shoulder surgery (rotator cuff repair, labral repair, stabilization/Bankart repair, debridement) were enrolled. Follow-ups were conducted via surveys on postoperative days (PODs) 7, 14, 28, and 90. The primary outcome was the number of unused pills from the originally prescribed medication.
Results: For all procedure types, the median (Q1, Q3) number of prescribed pills was 60 (40, 80). On POD 90, patients reported a median (Q1, Q3) of 13 (0, 32) unused pills; patients who underwent rotator cuff repairs had the lowest number of pills remaining (median [Q1, Q3], 0 [0, 16]), whereas patients who had stabilization/Bankart repairs had the highest number of unused pills (median [Q1, Q3], 37 [29, 50]). Patient satisfaction with pain management ranged from an average of 70% to 90%. Only 25 patients received instructions or education about opioid disposal.
Conclusion: Most outpatient shoulder surgery patients who underwent certain operations were prescribed more opioid analgesics than they consumed. Patient education regarding the disposal of opioids was lacking.
Keywords: acute pain; opioid consumption; outpatient shoulder surgery; unused opioid pill disposal.