Recommendations for the Prescription of Opioids at Discharge After Abdominopelvic Surgery: A Systematic Review

JAMA Surg. 2020 May 1;155(5):420-429. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2019.5875.


Importance: The prescription of opioids at discharge after abdominopelvic surgery is variable and often excessive. A lack of guidance for abdominopelvic surgeons may explain the suboptimal nature of current prescribing practices.

Objective: To systematically review existing recommendations on the prescription of opioids at discharge, the appropriate disposal of opioids, and the prevention of chronic postsurgical opioid use after abdominopelvic surgery.

Evidence review: This systematic review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. From January 2010 to December 2018, a search of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, HealthSTAR, Embase, and the difficult to locate and unpublished (ie, gray) literature was performed using a peer-reviewed strategy with variations of the terms opioid, surgery, and guideline to identify English-language documents that contained recommendations published by professional societies or health care institutions. The quality of clinical practice guidelines was assessed using the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation II (AGREE II) tool. A descriptive synthesis of results was performed.

Findings: Of 5530 citations screened, 41 full-text documents were included in the systematic review. Fifteen clinical practice guidelines were identified. AGREE II domain scores varied substantially. Identified among the 41 included documents were 98 recommended interventions for the prescription of opioids at discharge, 8 interventions for the disposal of opioids, and 8 interventions for the prevention of chronic postsurgical opioid use. Only 13 of 114 interventions (11.4%) were supported by an assessment of strength or level of evidence, and the amount of opioid recommended after specific abdominopelvic surgical procedures varied widely between guidance documents, even for the same procedure.

Conclusions and relevance: Current guidance for the prescription of opioids at discharge after abdominopelvic surgery is heterogeneous and rarely supported by evidence. More research is needed on this topic to guide the development of future recommendations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Humans
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Pelvis / surgery
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Analgesics, Opioid