Opioid-sparing approach to post-operative care reducing opiate prescriptions in half

Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For many people, dangerous opioid addictions begin at the hospital when they’re prescribed them to manage pain after a surgery.

But a new approach by doctors at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center is reducing opioid use among surgical patients in the hospital and at home by half.

“The data is out there, the stories out there. All of us know someone who’d been affected by it and it’s terrifying,” said Britt Collier-Gibson.

When she needed a second surgery to treat her breast cancer, she was relieved to hear her doctors were going to treat her pain with fewer opioids.

“It suited me well. I didn’t know how painful it would be. I was a different more lengthy surgery. But I wanted to give it a try,” she said.

“The opioid crisis has definitely brought awareness to this and caused us to reevaluate how many opiates we want to use,” said Dr. Michelle Humeidan, an anesthesiologist.

Doctors at The Ohio State University comprehensive cancer center are taking an opioid-sparing approach to post-op pain management.

“The nature of giving opiates to patients even if we have a very good reason, that can ultimately lead to bigger problems when it comes to diversion, addiction, misuse and abuse,” said Dr. Humeidan.

She says opioids can also cause nausea, lead to trouble breathing, and cause the gastrointestinal tract not to wake up as fast after surgery.

“This has become a standard in our society. After this procedure you get that amount, it was challenging. Maybe I don’t need that amount,” said Collier-Gibson.

“You can use the other adjuncts like acetaminophen and regional blocks to decrease the number of opiates you’re using which helps the patient recover faster, with really good pain control still happening,” said Dr. Humeidan.

Their innovative approach is working. The data from OSU shows that using non-opioid pain-management options is resulting in less pain, less nausea, shorter hospital stays and reduced costs.

Since their opioid-sparing approach started in 2016, they’ve documented a twenty-five percent reduction in average post-surgical hospital stays and a fifty percent reduction in opioid-based pain medications, both in the hospital and at home after surgery.

“We want to be really mindful and use opiates as needed but to really max our other options first and use opiates as a back-up plan,” said Dr. Humeidan.

She said they aren’t eliminating opiates but instead being more selective about when and how they prescribe them.

“And we reserve those for situations where we’ve maximized all the other things. Even though it takes a lot of coordiantion, it’s certainly worth it,” said Dr. Humeidan.

What started as a pilot program is now being expanded to post-operative care in ten other programs at Ohio State University.