Opioids have been a central component of routine adult and pediatric anesthesia for decades. However, the long-term effects of perioperative opioids are concerning. Recent studies show a 4.8%–6.5% incidence of persistent opioid use after surgery in older children and adults. This means that >2 million of the 50 million patients undergoing elective surgeries in the United States each year are likely to develop persistent opioid use. With this in mind, anesthesiologists at Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center assembled an interdisciplinary quality improvement team focused on 2 goals: (1) develop effective anesthesia protocols that minimize perioperative opioids and (2) add value to clinical services by maintaining or improving perioperative outcomes while reducing costs. This article describes our project and findings but does not attempt to make inferences or generalizations about populations outside our facility.
We performed a large-scale implementation of opioid-sparing protocols at our stand-alone pediatric clinic and ambulatory surgery facility, based in part on the prior success of our previously published tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy protocol. Multiple Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles were performed using data captured from the electronic medical record. The percentage of surgical patients receiving intraoperative opioids and postoperative morphine preintervention and postintervention were compared. The following measures were evaluated using statistical process control charts: maximum postoperative pain score, postoperative morphine rescue rate, total postanesthesia care unit minutes, total anesthesia minutes, and postoperative nausea and vomiting rescue rate. Intraoperative analgesic costs were calculated.
Between January 2017 and June 2019, 10,948 surgeries were performed at Bellevue, with 10,733 cases included in the analyses. Between December 2017 and June 2019, intraoperative opioid administration at our institution decreased from 84% to 8%, and postoperative morphine administration declined from 11% to 6% using analgesics such as dexmedetomidine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and regional anesthesia. Postoperative nausea and vomiting rescue rate decreased, while maximum postoperative pain scores, total anesthesia minutes, and total postanesthesia care unit minutes remained stable per control chart analyses. Costs improved.
By utilizing dexmedetomidine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and regional anesthesia for pediatric ambulatory surgeries at our facility, perioperative opioids were minimized without compromising patient outcomes or value.