Shared decision-making for postoperative opioid prescribing and preoperative pain management education decreases excess opioid burden

Surg Endosc. 2023 Mar;37(3):2253-2259. doi: 10.1007/s00464-022-09464-8. Epub 2022 Aug 2.


Introduction: Managing postoperative pain requires an individualized approach in order to balance adequate pain control with risk of persistent opioid use and narcotic abuse associated with inappropriately outsized narcotic prescriptions. Shared decision-making has been proposed to address individual pain management needs. We report here the results of a quality improvement initiative instituting prescribing guidelines using shared decision-making and preoperative pain expectation and management education to decrease excess opioid pills after surgery and improve patient satisfaction.

Methods: Pre-intervention prescribing habits were obtained by retrospective review perioperative pharmacy records for patients undergoing general surgeries in the 24 months prior to initiation of intervention. Patients scheduled to undergo General Surgery procedures were given a survey at their preoperative visit. Preoperative education was performed by the surgical team as a part of the Informed Consent process using a standardized handout and patients were asked to choose the number of narcotic pills they wished to obtain within prescribing recommendations. Postoperative surveys were administered during or after their 2-week postoperative visit.

Results: 131 patients completed pre-intervention and post-intervention surveys. The average prescription size decreased from 12.29 oxycodone pills per surgery prior to institution of pathway to 6.80 pills per surgery after institution of pathway (p < 0.001). The percentage of unused pills after surgery decreased from an estimated 70.5% pre-intervention to 48.5% (p < 0.001) post-intervention. 61.1% of patients with excess pills returned or planned to return medication to the pharmacy with 16.8% of patients reporting alternative disposal of excess medication. Patient-reported satisfaction was higher with current surgery compared to prior surgeries (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Institution of procedure-specific prescribing recommendations and preoperative pain management education using shared decision-making between patient and provider decreases opioid excess burden, resulting in fewer unused narcotic pills entering the community. Furthermore, allowing patients to participate in decision-making with their provider results in increased patient satisfaction.

Keywords: Narcotic; Opioid; Pain management; Patient-centered; Postoperative; Shared decision-making.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Decision Making, Shared*
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain, Postoperative* / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative* / prevention & control
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Preoperative Care
  • Quality Improvement
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid