A multi-institutional approach for decreasing narcotic prescriptions after laparoscopic appendectomy.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Surgical endoscopy


washington; seattle; swedish; Appendectomy; Narcotic avoidance; Opioid reduction


BACKGROUND: Appendicitis is a common indication for surgical hospital admission. Uncomplicated appendicitis is typically treated with surgical intervention, most commonly a laparoscopic appendectomy. As with many procedures, narcotic utilization is highly varied among surgeons for postoperative pain control. With the opioid epidemic and a demonstrated link between excessive narcotic prescriptions paving the way to dependence and addiction, it is more important than ever to decrease the circulation of these medications. We hypothesized that a perioperative, multimodal analgesia strategy coupled with monthly feedback reports comparing hospitals narcotic prescribing habits would decrease, and in some cases eliminate, the use of outpatient narcotics in adults after laparoscopic appendectomy.

METHODS: A quality improvement project was initiated to provide monthly feedback to surgeons on narcotic prescribing habits after adult laparoscopic appendectomies. A multi-hospital database was created to include adult patients that were diagnosed with acute appendicitis, treated with laparoscopic appendectomy, and discharged within 48 h of surgery. The database provided information regarding the number of narcotic doses prescribed on discharge. Participating hospitals selected a site champion who distributed monthly prescribing reports. A protocol was created and distributed to participating sites that provided a guideline for preoperative and postoperative pain medication management. The intervention period was 10/1/2019-3/31/2020. We utilized the preceding year's data (October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019) as the pre-intervention control group. We also compared results between local and distant sites to see if personal connection to surgeons influenced the results.

RESULTS: A total of 1785 appendectomies were performed during the study period at participating hospitals. The average number of prescribed narcotics decreased from 23.6 doses during the control period to 14.2 during the intervention (p < 0.001). There was no change in the number of total narcotic prescriptions (8.9 vs 7.9%, p = 0.52). Overall, the average number of narcotics prescribed decreased by 40% with similar decrease in average prescribed narcotics for local and distant hospitals, respectively (47.7% vs 42.1%). Average narcotic dose during the first 2 months of intervention at the local hospitals was 9.7 and 11.1 for the last 2 months of intervention (p = 0.69). Average narcotic dose during the first 2 months of intervention at the distant hospitals was 19.5 and 13.4 for the last 2 months of intervention (p = 0.005).

CONCLUSION: A multimodal pain regimen combined with a monthly narcotic prescription report provided to prescribers decreases the average number of narcotic prescriptions after laparoscopic appendectomy. Local sites demonstrated immediate decrease in narcotic utilization compared to distant sites whose change occurred more gradually.

Clinical Institute

Women & Children

Clinical Institute

Digestive Health