Patient-Reported Opioid Consumption and Pain Intensity After Common Orthopedic and Urologic Surgical Procedures With Use of an Automated Text Messaging System

JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Mar 1;4(3):e213243. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.3243.


Importance: Surgeons must balance management of acute postoperative pain with opioid stewardship. Patient-centered methods that immediately evaluate pain and opioid consumption can be used to guide prescribing and shared decision-making.

Objective: To assess the difference between the number of opioid tablets prescribed and the self-reported number of tablets taken as well as self-reported pain intensity and ability to manage pain after orthopedic and urologic procedures with use of an automated text messaging system.

Design, setting, and participants: This quality improvement study was conducted at a large, urban academic health care system in Pennsylvania. Adult patients (aged ≥18 years) who underwent orthopedic and urologic procedures and received postoperative prescriptions for opioids were included. Data were collected prospectively using automated text messaging until postoperative day 28, from May 1 to December 31, 2019.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was the difference between the number of opioid tablets prescribed and the patient-reported number of tablets taken (in oxycodone 5-mg tablet equivalents). Secondary outcomes were self-reported pain intensity (on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest level of pain) and ability to manage pain (on a scale of 0-10, with 10 representing very able to control pain) after orthopedic and urologic procedures.

Results: Of the 919 study participants, 742 (80.7%) underwent orthopedic procedures and 177 (19.2%) underwent urologic procedures. Among those who underwent orthopedic procedures, 384 (51.8%) were women, 491 (66.7%) were White, and the median age was 48 years (interquartile range [IQR], 32-61 years); 514 (69.8%) had an outpatient procedure. Among those who underwent urologic procedures, 145 (84.8%) were men, 138 (80.7%) were White, and the median age was 56 years (IQR, 40-67 years); 106 (62%) had an outpatient procedure. The mean (SD) pain score on day 4 after orthopedic procedures was 4.72 (2.54), with a mean (SD) change by day 21 of -0.40 (1.91). The mean (SD) ability to manage pain score on day 4 was 7.32 (2.59), with a mean (SD) change of -0.80 (2.72) by day 21. The mean (SD) pain score on day 4 after urologic procedures was 3.48 (2.43), with a mean (SD) change by day 21 of -1.50 (2.12). The mean (SD) ability to manage pain score on day 4 was 7.34 (2.81), with a mean (SD) change of 0.80 (1.75) by day 14. The median quantity of opioids prescribed for patients who underwent orthopedic procedures was high compared with self-reported consumption (20 tablets [IQR, 15-30 tablets] vs 6 tablets used [IQR, 0-14 tablets]), similar to findings for patients who underwent urologic procedures (7 tablets [IQR, 5-10 tablets] vs 1 tablet used [IQR, 0-4 tablets]). Over the study period, 9452 of 15 581 total tablets prescribed (60.7%) were unused. A total of 589 patients (64.1%) used less than half of the amount prescribed, and 256 patients (27.8%) did not use any opioids (179 [24.1%] who underwent orthopedic procedures and 77 [43.5%] who underwent urologic procedures).

Conclusions and relevance: In this quality improvement study of adult patients reporting use of opioids after common orthopedic and urologic surgical procedures through a text messaging system, the quantities of opioids prescribed and the quantity consumed differed. Patient-reported data collected through text messaging may support clinicians in tailoring prescriptions and guide shared decision-making to limit excess quantities of prescribed opioids.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedic Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Text Messaging*
  • Urologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*


  • Analgesics, Opioid