The epidemic of nonmedical use of prescription opioids (NMUPOs) has been fueled in part by the availability of leftover, legitimately prescribed opioids. In children, outpatient urological procedures are among the most common surgeries performed, but data are lacking to guide appropriate postoperative opioid prescribing. The aim of this study was to compare the amount of prescribed opioid medication to the amount taken for acute pain after minor pediatric urological surgery and to determine the disposition of excess opioid. In addition, we explored whether distinct patient characteristics and procedure type influenced opioid prescribing and consumption.
Of the 139 families of pediatric patients enrolled, 115 were interviewed within 48 hours and/or 10–14 days of discharge to determine the amount of opioid prescribed and consumed, duration of treatment, and disposition of unconsumed opioid.
The most common procedures performed were circumcision (n = 58) and orchiopexy (n = 40). Most patients (98%) were male, and 77% were <8 years of age. All opioid prescriptions were for oxycodone dosed every 4 hours as needed (PRN). Median number of doses prescribed was 30 (interquartile range [IQR], 23–31; n = 138) for both respondents who reported doses remaining (IQR, 29–31; n = 83) and those who did not (IQR, 22–32; n = 55). Among those reporting doses remaining, median number of doses consumed was 4.2 (IQR, 0–14). Multivariable linear regression showed no significant association between doses consumed and patient age, type of procedure, discharge pain score, or use of adjuvant analgesics. Median duration of opioid therapy was 2 days (IQR, 0–5; n = 83) with each additional day of opioid use corresponding to an average increase in consumption of 2.3 doses (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8–2.8). An estimated 75% (95% CI, 69%–81%) of opioid dispensed was not consumed, and 86% (72/83) of patients took ≤18 doses. Forty-four of 65 (68%) families reported receiving no disposal instructions for leftover opioid, and only 7 families disposed of leftover medication.
For minor pediatric urological surgeries in young boys, a 3-day supply (18 doses) of opioid was sufficient to adequately treat acute postoperative pain in most patients. Adjusting opioid dispensing to align with consumption and better educating patients and families on opioid disposal can be used to potentially decrease availability of leftover opioids in homes and communities.