Optimizing opioid prescribing and pain treatment for surgery: Review and conceptual framework

Mark Bicket, Gabriel A. Brat, Susan Hutfless, Christopher Wu, Suzanne A. Nesbit, G. Caleb Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Millions of Americans who undergo surgical procedures receive opioid prescriptions as they return home. While some derive great benefit from these medicines, others experience adverse events, convert to chronic opioid use, or have unused medicines that serve as a reservoir for potential nonmedical use. Our aim was to investigate concepts and methods relevant to optimal opioid prescribing and pain treatment in the perioperative period. Methods: We reviewed existing literature for trials on factors that influence opioid prescribing and optimization of pain treatment for surgical procedures and generated a conceptual framework to guide future quality, safety, and research efforts. Results: Opioid prescribing and pain treatment after discharge from surgery broadly consist of 3 key interacting perspectives, including those of the patient, the perioperative team, and, serving in an essential role for all patients, the pharmacist. Systems-based factors, ranging from the organizational environment's ability to provide multimodal analgesia and participation in enhanced recovery after surgery programs to other healthcare system and macro-level trends, shape these interactions and influence opioid-related safety outcomes. Conclusions: The severity and persistence of the opioid crisis underscore the urgent need for interventions to improve postoperative prescription opioid use in the United States. Such interventions are likely to be most effective, with the fewest unintended consequences, if based on sound evidence and built on multidisciplinary efforts that include pharmacists, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and the patient. Future studies have the potential to identify the optimal amount to prescribe, improve patient-focused safety and quality outcomes, and help curb the oversupply of opioids that contributes to the most pressing public health crisis of our time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1403-1412
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Health-System Pharmacy
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019


  • nonopioid analgesics
  • nonpharmacologic pain treatment
  • opioid analgesics
  • perioperative team
  • postsurgical pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology
  • Health Policy


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