Background: In the midst of our national opioid crisis, recommendations have encouraged judicious stewardship of opioid prescription through the expanded use of non-opioid analgesic medications. This study aims to characterize trends in perioperative pain medication use for children undergoing ambulatory operations. Methods: A cross-sectional, retrospective review was conducted using the Pediatric Health Information System. Patients younger than 18 years of age who underwent ambulatory surgery during 2010 to 2017 by one of five surgical subspecialties (otolaryngology, general pediatric, plastic or reconstructive, orthopedics, and urology) were included. Medications were identified using Current Procedural Terminology codes based on billing information for 18 commonly used analgesics along with the route of administration during their encounter. Results: A total of 1,795,329 patients with a median age of 10 years were identified, of whom 84.3% received an opioid or non-opioid analgesic. Opioid use in the perioperative setting for ambulatory procedures decreased during the study period from 74.9% to 66.9% as a proportion of total analgesic prescriptions. Among opioids commonly used, intravenous morphine decreased the most from 19.8% to 15.4%, and intravenous hydromorphone and oral oxycodone use remained largely unchanged. Conversely, non-opiate medications increased, specifically intravenous ketorolac from 8.4% to 13.6%, and intravenous acetaminophen use increased from 0% to 8.5%. Intravenous acetaminophen use more than doubled between 2013 and 2017 (3.4% to 8.2%) and was accompanied by a decrease in oral acetaminophen use (14.4% to 9.3%). Conclusion: Overall, perioperative opioid utilization appears to be decreasing in favor of non-opioid analgesics. Other trends, such as increased intravenous acetaminophen, raise concerns for the cost effectiveness of perioperative analgesia and resource utilization.
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