Can We Eliminate Opioid Medications for Postoperative Pain Control? A Prospective, Surgeon-Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial in Knee Arthroscopic Surgery

Matthew J. Hartwell*, Ryan S. Selley, Michael A. Terry, Vehniah K. Tjong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Orthopaedic surgeons have a responsibility to develop responsible opioid practices. Growing evidence has helped define an optimal number of opioids to prescribe after surgical procedures, but little evidence-based guidance exists to support specific practice patterns to decrease opioid utilization. Hypothesis: After knee arthroscopic surgery with partial meniscectomy, patients who were provided a prescription for opioids and instructed to only fill the prescription if absolutely necessary for pain control would take fewer opioids than patients with opioids automatically included as part of a multimodal approach to pain control prescribed at discharge. Study Design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 2. Methods: Patients undergoing arthroscopic partial meniscectomy were provided multimodal pain control with aspirin, acetaminophen, and naproxen and randomized to receive oxycodone as either included with their multimodal pain medications (group 1) or given an optional prescription to fill (group 2). Patients were contacted at time points up to 1 month after surgery to assess opioid utilization and medication side effects. The mean number of tablets utilized was the primary outcome measure, with a 50% reduction defined as a successful outcome. Results: A total of 105 patients were initially enrolled, and 95 (91%; 48 in group 1 and 47 in group 2) successfully completed the study. There was no significant reduction in the number of tablets utilized between groups 1 and 2 (3.5 vs 4.5, respectively; P =.45), days that opioids were required (2.2 vs 3.2, respectively; P =.20), or postoperative pain at any time point. The group with the option to fill their prescription had significantly fewer unused tablets remaining than the group with opioids included as part of the multimodal pain control regimen (75% of potentially prescribed tablets vs 82% of prescribed tablets; P <.001). Overall, 37% of patients did not require any opioids after surgery, and 86% used ≤8 tablets. Conclusion: Patients required a minimal number of opioids after knee arthroscopic surgery with partial meniscectomy. There was no difference in the number of tablets utilized whether the opioid prescription was included in a multimodal pain control regimen or patients were given an option to fill the prescription. Offering optional opioid prescriptions in the setting of a multimodal approach to pain control can significantly reduce the number of unused opioids circulating in the community. Registration: NCT03876743 (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2711-2717
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Volume48
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Keywords

  • anesthesia/pain management
  • knee arthroscopic surgery
  • meniscectomy
  • opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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