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Fighting Back: Institutional Strategies to Combat the Opioid Epidemic: A Systematic Review

  • Lovecchio, Francis1
  • Premkumar, Ajay1
  • Stepan, Jeffrey G.1
  • Albert, Todd J.1
  • 1 Hospital for Special Surgery, 535 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021, USA , New York (United States)
Published Article
HSS Journal ®
Springer US
Publication Date
Jan 14, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s11420-018-09662-y
Springer Nature


BackgroundCurrent research on opioid use within orthopedic surgery has focused on efforts to identify patients at risk for chronic opioid use. Studies addressing prevention of opioid misuse related to orthopedic care are lacking. Evidence-based interventions to reduce the reliance on opioids for post-operative pain relief will be a key component of any comprehensive institutional opioid policy.Questions/PurposesThe purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate institutional strategies that reduce opioid administration or consumption after orthopedic surgery.MethodsUsing the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) checklist, a search was conducted of the PubMed database for English-language articles that analyzed interventions by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, or other hospital staff to reduce post-operative opioid use or narcotic prescription amounts after surgery. Studies that contained objective outcome measures (i.e., no expert opinion articles) were selected. Investigations on the effect of pharmacologic adjuvants, cryotherapy, or regional nerve blockades on opioid use were excluded.ResultsThe initial search yielded 6598 titles, of which 13 full-text articles were ultimately selected for inclusion in this systematic review. The review identified two major categories of interventions—patient-focused and provider-focused (e.g., physicians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists). Formal patient education programs were most effective in reducing opioid use. On the provider side, prescribing guidelines appear to decrease the overall number of pills prescribed, often without changes in patient satisfaction or requests for refills.ConclusionsResearchers are just beginning to establish the most effective ways for institutions to reduce opioid use and promote responsible post-operative prescribing. Institutional prescribing guidelines, standardized bedside pain-management programs, and formal patient education curriculums are all evidence-based interventions that can achieve these goals. The available research also supports an interprofessional approach in any institutional opioid-reduction strategy.

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