To determine the effect of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) pain management guidelines for acute musculoskeletal injuries on opioid prescription sizes, pain control, and refills.
A prospective cohort study was performed at an academic urban level 1 trauma center. 90 patients undergoing outpatient orthopaedic trauma surgery were enrolled before and after the implementation of the OTA pain management guidelines. Adherence to guidelines, pain visual analog scale, and refills were recorded postoperatively and at the 2- and 6-week follow-up visit.
After implementation of the guidelines, the number of patients receiving oxycodone decreased from 100 to 27%, with these patients receiving the less potent hydrocodone, instead. The discharge morphine equivalent dose (MED) decreased from a median (interquartile range) of 225 (169-300) to 140 mg (140-210) (p < 0.001). More patients required refills in the guidelines group (42% vs. 20%), resulting in no difference in total MED prescribed (210 (140-280) vs. 225 (169-307)). Adherence to the guidelines occurred in 66% of patients. As-treated analysis of patients with adherent and non-adherent prescriptions found no detectable difference in pain control, number of opioid pills used, or refills at the 2-week and 6-week follow-up.
In the midst of a national opioid crisis, adoption of the OTA’s pain management guidelines for orthopaedic trauma surgery warrants further research to determine if it’s implementation can reduce the size, variability, and duration of opioid prescriptions.
Level II, prospective cohort.