Attending and Resident Surgeon Perspectives and Prescribing Practices of Pain Medication During the Opioid Epidemic.

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Publication Date


Publication Title

J Surg Educ


OBJECTIVE: Over 67,000 individuals died in the United States due to drug overdose in 2018; the majority of these deaths were secondary to opioid ingestion. Our aim was to determine surgeon perceptions on opioid abuse, the adequacy of perioperative and graduate medical education, and the role surgeons may play. We also aimed to investigate any differences in attending and resident surgeon attitudes.

DESIGN: Anonymous online survey assessing surgeons' opioid counseling practices, prescribing patterns, and perceptions on opioid abuse, adequacy of education about opioid abuse, and the role physicians play.

SETTING: Two Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education accredited general surgery programs at a university-based tertiary hospital and a community hospital in the Midwest.

PARTICIPANTS: Attending and resident physicians within the Departments of Surgery participated anonymously.

RESULTS: Attending surgeons were more likely than residents to discuss posoperative opioids with patients (62% vs. 33%; p < 0.05), discuss the potential of opioid abuse (31% vs. 6%; p < 0.05), and check state-specific prescription monitoring programs (15% vs. 0%; p < 0.05). Surgeons and trainees feel that surgeons have contributed to the opioid epidemic (76% attending vs. 88% resident). Overall, attending and resident surgeons disagree that there is adequate formal education (66% vs. 66%) but adequate informal education (48% vs. 61%) on opioid prescribing. However, when attending physicians were broken down into those who have practiced ≤5 years vs. those with >5 years experience, those with ≤5 years experience were more confident in recognizing opioid abuse (61% vs. 34%) and fewer young faculty disagreed that there is adequate formalized education on opioid prescribing (45% vs. 84%).

CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE: Patient education should be improved upon in the preoperative setting and should be treated as an important component of preoperative discussions. Formalized opioid education should also be undertaken in graduate surgical education to help guide appropriate opioid use by resident and attending physicians.