Optimization of postoperative opioid prescriptions in gynecologic oncology: Striking a balance between opioid reduction and pain control

Gynecol Oncol. 2021 Sep;162(3):756-762. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2021.06.023. Epub 2021 Jul 3.


Objective: To implement a quality-improvement initiative to assess the impact various patient and procedural factors have on postoperative opioid use. To develop a tailored opioid prescribing algorithm for gynecologic oncology patients.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed of patients who underwent a laparoscopy or laparotomy procedure for a suspected or known gynecologic malignancy between 3/2019-9/2020. Patients were assessed preoperatively for the presence of suspected risk factors for opioid misuse (depression, anxiety, chronic pain, current opioid use, or substance abuse). Patients completed a 30-day postoperative questionnaire assessing for total opioid pill use and refills requests. Multivariate models were developed to estimate the independent effect of sociodemographic characteristics, risk factors for opioid misuse and procedural factors on patient reported postoperative opioid use.

Results: A total of 390 patients were analyzed. Thirty-nine percent (N = 151/390) of patients reported not using opioids after discharge and 5% (N = 20/390) received an opioid refill. For both minimally invasive procedures and laparotomy procedures, body mass index, comorbidities, intraoperative or postoperative complications and final diagnosis of malignancy were not associated with the amount of opioid consumption. However, younger age and history of risk factors for opioid misuse significantly impacted postoperative opioid use. In multivariate analysis, age (p = 0.038) and risk factors (p < 0.001) remained significant after controlling for other factors.

Conclusions: Two out of every five patients did not use opioids after surgery. Younger patients and those with risk factors for opioid misuse need a tailored approach to prescribing opioids to balance the need for adequate pain control with the risk of misuse.

Keywords: Gynecologic surgery; Opioid misuse; Postoperative opioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Quality Improvement
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control


  • Analgesics, Opioid