Legitimate opioid prescriptions can increase the risk of misuse, addiction, and overdose of opioids in children and adolescents. This study aimed to describe the prescribing patterns of discharge opioid analgesics following inpatient visits and to determine patient and prescriber characteristics that are associated with prolonged opioid prescription.
In a historical cohort study, we identified patients discharged from hospital with an opioid analgesic prescription in a tertiary pediatric hospital from 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2017. The primary outcome was the duration of opioid prescription in number of days. We assessed the association between patient and prescriber characteristics and an opioid prescription duration > five days using a generalized estimating equation to account for clustering due to repeated admissions of the same patient.
During the 18-month study period, 15.4% of all admitted patients (3,787/24,571) were given a total of 3,870 opioid prescriptions at discharge. The median [interquartile range] prescribed duration of outpatient opioid therapy was 3.75 [3.00-5.00] days. Seventy-seven percent of the opioid prescriptions were for five days or less. Generalized estimating equation analysis revealed that hospital stay > four days, oxycodone prescription, and prescription by clinical fellows and the orthopedics service were all independently associated with a discharge opioid prescription of > five days.
Most discharge opioids for children were prescribed for less than five days, consistent with current guidelines for adults. Nevertheless, the dosage and duration of opioids prescribed at discharge varied widely.

© 2021. Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society.