Opioid prescribing to preteen children undergoing ambulatory surgery in the United States.

PubMed ID: 33902922

Author(s): Cartmill RS, Yang DY, Walker BJ, Bradfield YS, Kille TL, Su RR, Kohler JE. Opioid prescribing to preteen children undergoing ambulatory surgery in the United States. Surgery. 2021 Sep;170(3):925-931. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2021.03.043. Epub 2021 Apr 24. PMID 33902922

Journal: Surgery, Volume 170, Issue 3, 09 2021

BACKGROUND Overuse and misuse of opioids is a continuing crisis. The most common reason for children to receive opioids is postoperative pain, and they are often prescribed more than needed. The amount of opioids prescribed varies widely, even for minor ambulatory procedures. This study uses a large national sample to describe filled opioid prescriptions to preteen patients after all ambulatory surgical procedures and common standard procedures.

METHODS We analyzed Truven Health MarketScan data for July 2012 through December 2016 to perform descriptive analyses of opioid fills by age and geographic area, change over time, second opioid fills in opioid-naïve patients, and variation in the types and amount of medication prescribed for 18 common and standard procedures in otolaryngology, urology, general surgery, ophthalmology, and orthopedics.

RESULTS Over 10% of preteen children filled perioperative opioid prescriptions for ambulatory surgery in the period 2012 to 2016. The amount prescribed varied widely (median 5 days’ supply, IQR 3-8, range 1-90), even for the most minor procedures, for example, frenotomy (median 4 days’ supply, IQR 2-5, range 1-60). Codeine fills were common despite safety concerns. Second opioid prescriptions were filled by opioid-naïve patients after almost all procedures studied. The rate of prescribing declined significantly over time and varied substantially by age and across census regions.

CONCLUSIONS We identified opioid prescribing outside of the norms of standard practice in all of the specialties studied. Standardizing perioperative opioid prescribing and developing guidelines on appropriate prescribing for children may reduce the opioids available for misuse and diversion.

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