Medical College of Wisconsin
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Reducing opioid utilization after appendectomy: A lesson in implementation of a multidisciplinary quality improvement project. Surg Open Sci 2020 Jan;2(1):27-33



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Background: Perioperative care after appendectomy may be the first exposure to opioids for many children. A quality improvement project was implemented to assess current practice of prescribing pain medications after a laparoscopic appendectomy to decrease unnecessary opioid use via simple, targeted steps.

Methods: Three measures were implemented in patients undergoing laparoscopic appendectomy for acute appendicitis: (1) ice packs to incision in postanesthesia care unit, (2) standard pain scores within 30 minutes of admission to ward postoperatively, and (3) standardized postoperative order set minimizing opioid utilization and limited number of opioids prescribed at discharge. Pre- and postimplementation data were compared with the primary outcome variable: opioid utilization during the postoperative period.

Results: There were no statistically significant differences in age or gender between the 814 preimplementation and 263 postimplementation patients. Postimplementation compliance is 66.9% for icepacks, 88% for pain scores, and 94.7% for postoperative order set. There were statistically significant decreases in intravenous and enteral opioids administered, number of opioid doses prescribed at discharge, and patients discharged with an opioid prescription.

Conclusion: By using a multidisciplinary assessment of current state, culture, and management of parental, patient, and nursing expectations, our institution was able to reduce overall opioid consumption.

Author List

Somers KK, Amin R, Leack KM, Lingongo M, Arca MJ, Gourlay DM


David M. Gourlay MD Chief, Professor in the Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin