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Reducing opioid prescribing on discharge after orthopedic surgery: Does a guideline improve opioid prescribing practice?

Beata Stanley, BPharm, BSc (Hons), Lisa Collins, PhD, Amanda Norman, BA (Hons), Anthony Bonomo, MBBS, FRACS, Yvonne Bonomo, MBBS, FRACP, PhD, FAChAM


Aim: To investigate adherence to discharge advice in a prescription opioid prescribing guideline (GL) post-orthopedic surgery.

Methods: The guideline in draft form was introduced in February 2018. To assess longer-term adherence to discharge advice and to understand which components of that advice were adhered to, regular audits of discharge prescribing were performed after formal GL launch in February 2019, a year after the draft of the GL had been available. The post-GL audit was conducted for three months (March to May 2019) and results reviewed. When these audit results showed a need for improvement in prescribing practice, a 1-month education “booster” named prescription opioid practice improvement safe opioid supply (POPI SOS) took place. Audits for a further 3 months (July to Sept 2019) were then carried out to ascertain whether the additional effort improved adherence to the guideline.

Results: On average, adherence to all elements of the guideline was low at only 23.1 percent at 12 months post-draft GL and 1 month after its formal launch. After POPI SOS, a statistically significant improvement was achieved with an average increase in adherence to 52.5 percent (ρ < 0.001). Greatest improvement was seen in the percentage of patients discharged with an opioid plan included in the discharge summary, increasing from 35.8 to 77.7 percent (ρ < 0.001). The second significant improvement observed was in the supply of opioids being limited to four days or less, an increase from 38.1 to 61.9 percent (ρ < 0.001).

Conclusion: Introduction of the guideline was not sufficient to promote sustained change in practice. Ongoing monitoring and education were required for its implementation. These findings highlight that comprehensive, locally adapted, evidence-based opioid stewardship is needed to increase the safety of patients and the community in relation to opioid therapy.


analgesia, discharge, guideline, opioids, opioid weaning plan, orthopedic, surgery

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