Postsurgical Opioid Prescribing: Avoiding Risks while Preserving Benefits

Author: Jennifer Hah

Jennifer Hah, MD

The current approach to managing pain in a postoperative environment has continued to progress even over the last decade in terms of multimodal analgesia. So after a patient leaves the hospital, after they finish their surgery and had this intensive experience, where do they go in terms of how do they take their pain medications, and specifically, how can we alleviate confusion for patients and make the process of tapering off of opioids easier.  We are not saying that we should not be using opioids, because we really do need them for postoperative pain management.  But the question is how can we use them safely and minimize risk for as many patients as possible.

There’s a disconnect between opioids prescribed and opioids used after surgery, and the amount prescribed often doesn’t influence patients’ decisions to continue or cease opioid use. Also, different patients have different opioid needs after similar procedures. The focus of my current research is to delve into the many factors that go into how many pills should people take after surgery, with the goal of identifying best approaches to help people taper off their opioids.  Ultimately, the key to reducing patient confusion about their medications is a collaborative patient/provider relationship.

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