BACKGROUND: There is wide variation in opioid prescribing after appendectomy in children and adolescents, with recent increases noted in opioid-related pediatric deaths from prescription and illicit opioids. The goal of this project was to minimize opioid prescribing at the time of discharge for children undergoing appendectomy by using Quality Improvement (QI) methodology. STUDY DESIGN: Children (18 years of age or less) who underwent appendectomy were evaluated from January to December 2019 using NSQIP-Pediatric at 10 children's hospitals within the Western Pediatric Surgery Research Consortium. Before project initiation, 5 hospitals did not routinely prescribe opioids after appendectomy (protocol). At the remaining 5 hospitals, prescribing was not standardized and varied by surgeon (no-protocol). A prospective multi-institutional QI project was used to minimize outpatient opioid prescriptions for children after appendectomy. The proportion of children at each hospital receiving an opioid prescription at discharge was compared for 6 months before and after the intervention using chi-square analysis. RESULTS: Overall, 1,524 children who underwent appendectomy were evaluated from January to December 2019. After the QI intervention, overall opioid prescribing decreased from 18.2% to 4.0% (p < 0.001), with significant decreases in protocol hospitals (2.7% vs 0.8%, p = 0.038) and no-protocol hospitals (37.9% vs 8.8%, p < 0.001). The proportion of 30-day emergency room visits did not change after the QI intervention (8.9% vs 9.9%, p = 0.54) and mean postintervention pain management satisfaction scores were high. CONCLUSION: Opioid prescribing can be minimized in children after appendectomy without increasing emergency room visits or decreasing patient satisfaction. Furthermore, NSQIP-Pediatric can be used as a platform for multi-institutional collaboration for successful implementation of QI projects.
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