Combating the Opioid Epidemic in Acute General Surgery: Reframing Inpatient Acute Pain Management

Brooke Anne Magrum, Kristin Brower, Daniel Eiferman, Chelsea Horwood, Michelle Nguyen, Anna Buehl, Eric McLaughlin, Lisa Mostafavifar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The devastating effects of the opioid epidemic are well documented. We implemented a surgeon/pharmacist opioid reduction initiative at an academic medical center that incorporated multimodal pain therapy in an attempt to reduce total inpatient opioids prescribed. We hypothesized that less opioids would be used postoperatively without affecting pain scores or length of stay. Methods: This single-center observational cohort analysis included patients admitted to the acute general surgical service and had one of 10 emergent general surgical (nontrauma) procedures. Patients who underwent surgery before the opioid reduction initiative were compared with patients who underwent surgery postinitiative. The primary objective was to evaluate differences in daily oral morphine equivalents and average pain scores in patients before and after implementation of the surgeon/pharmacist initiative. Results: Eighty-three patients in the preopioid reduction initiative group and 92 patients in the postopioid reduction initiative group met inclusion criteria. Oral morphine equivalents were significantly different at 24 h before discharge when comparing across both year (P = 0.032) and number of procedures (P = 0.013). Our results showed decreased opioid utilization in the postopioid reduction initiative group on all observed postoperative days with unaffected pain scores. Conclusions: An opioid reduction initiative showed promise in lowering the number of opioids used during inpatient admission without affecting pain scores in emergent general surgical procedures. This initiative can be easily reproduced at other institutions to help combat the opioid epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-15
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute surgery
  • Opioids
  • Oral morphine equivalents
  • Postoperative pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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