USE CASE: Pre and Post Surgical Opioid Use

The University of Colorado Hospital (UCHealth) is the only academic medical center focused on specialized care in Colorado. Providers practicing at UCHealth are Specialists and Surgeons, offering care to the residents of Colorado and several other neighboring states. UCHealth also provides graduate medical education through affiliated health professional schools. As an academic institution, UCHealth has a strong dedication to all forms of health research in order to better serve the community and improve outcomes for their patients.

Project Summary: Currently in the United States, more people die from drug overdose every year than from motor vehicle accidents. While illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin have traditionally been associated with fatal drug overdoses, the number of people who die from overdosing on prescription opioids is actually far greater. The impact of perioperative pharmacologic analgesic regimens on opioid prescription patterns following discharge is unknown. This project will lay the epidemiologic foundation for future clinical studies to examine the efficacy and safety of perioperative opioid use. The overarching objective of this line of research is to increase patient safety by finding avenues to optimize non-opioid based analgesia and to reduce the need for opioid analgesia for surgical patients following hospital discharge.

The main goal of this research proposal is to study the impact of perioperative pharmacologic treatment approaches for acute post-surgical pain on opioid prescription patterns at 30 days and 90 days post discharge. By linking perioperative data from the University of Colorado Hospital Epic/Clarity database with opioid prescription information derived from the Colorado All Payer Claims database the researchers believed they would be able to examine this relationship in a very large patient cohort. Researchers hypothesized that opioid-naïve patients undergoing inpatient-surgery, who are managed with an opioid-centered pain therapy, are more likely to be prescribed opioids after discharge.

Benefit to Colorado: The opioid epidemic is a fast-growing concern across the nation. This study helped to inform additional research into how post-surgery opioid prescriptions impact addiction and overdose. The researchers used the information gleaned from this study to apply for additional funds to continue examining opioid safety and develop a model for goal directed opioid prescribing post-surgery. Funded were awarded and research is underway.