Evaluating Adherence of Evidence-Based Post-Operative Discharge Opioid Prescribing Guidelines and Patient Outcomes Two Weeks Post-Discharge

Gerardo A. Arwi, Penelope H.R. Tuffin, Stephan A. Schug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: There is a growing public health concern regarding inappropriate prescribing practices of discharge analgesia. A tertiary Australian hospital first developed its Postoperative Inpatients Discharge Analgesia Guidelines after an initial audit in 2015. Adherence to the guidelines were evaluated in 2016 and 2017 which show reduced compliance from 93.5% in 2016 to 83.4% in 2017. Aim: To assess ongoing compliance with the guidelines five years following its implementation and to evaluate patient outcome in terms of its clinical impact and minimization of harmful events. Methods: Prescribing data were obtained for discharge analgesic medication for 200 surgical patients from August 2019 to April 2020. Records were assessed against the hospital’s Postoperative Inpatients Discharge Analgesia Guidelines and compared with equivalent data from the previous 2015, 2016, and 2017 audits. Patients were interviewed by telephone two weeks after hospital discharge. Results: Prescribing of analgesia was most compliant with overall guidelines for paracetamol (100% unchanged from 2017), followed by celecoxib (98%, up from 96% in 2017), tramadol IR (89% up from 74% in 2017), and pregabalin (89% up from 50% in 2017). Two weeks after discharge, 112 (56%) patients were surveyed and reported a mean pain-score of 2 (95% CI 1.5–2.5) out of 10 at that time. Thirty-two (29%) patients interviewed were still taking pain medication, with 17 (53%) taking medication supplied from the hospital. Seventy-eight (88%) patients stored their pain medication in an unlocked location. Among those no longer taking analgesia, 28 (43%) had unused pain medications, and only two (6%) had returned these to a community pharmacist. Conclusion: This study found that compliance with hospital discharge analgesia prescribing guidelines has increased, although there is room for improvement. Follow-up of the participants reveals high rates of unused opioids, improper storage and disposal of their pain medication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3115-3125
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain Research
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2022


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