Opioid Resource Center

Opioid Resource Center

Disclosures: Agarwal reports no relevant financial disclosures.
February 17, 2021
1 min read

More than half of opioids went unused after orthopedic surgery

Disclosures: Agarwal reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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A text messaging program showed more than half of opioids prescribed to patients went unused after orthopedic surgery, according to published results.

Using an automated, HIPAA-secure text messaging platform, Anish K. Agarwal, MD, MPH, and colleagues sent messages to 2,444 patients who underwent orthopedic surgery from September 2018 to January 2020 and had received a prescription for an acute opioid. The messages, which asked about pain levels, ability to manage pain and use of prescription opioids, were sent on postoperative days 4, 7, 14 and 21. Patients who indicated no current or future planned opioid use were not sent additional messages, according to researchers.

Results showed 47.2% of patients provided consent to participate in the program, with 88% of patients responding on postoperative day 4 and 95% of patients responding on postoperative day 21. Researchers noted the lowest rate of responses on postoperative day 7 (69%). Although patients reported a decrease in pain levels across all orthopedic procedures within the first 21 days following surgery, researchers found 61% of opioid tablets remained unused.

“Health systems and clinicians can start to engage patients remotely to learn about their postoperative pain [and] their use of prescription pain medications and help guide future practice,” Agarwal, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Healio Orthopedics. “In this study, we saw that patients responding via text messaging were able to manage their pain with much fewer opioids than we prescribed. This can help inform future opioid prescribing and reduce the number of tablets left over in households.”