Reduction of opioid utilization after vaginal delivery with an electronic health record intervention


      The national epidemic of opioid misuse has focused its attention on postpartum analgesic usage. Adequate pain control achieved with nonopioid pain medications and conservative measures could reduce the number of opioid pain medications available for misuse and diversion. Interventions that decrease inpatient opioid use after delivery could reduce the potential for chronic dependence in postpartum women. Modification of preloaded electronic order sets to decrease opioid administration has successfully reduced opioid use following a major abdominal surgery, including cesarean delivery. However, interventions to reduce opioid use following vaginal delivery are not well described.


      We aimed to evaluate the effect of removing opioid medications from postpartum order sets on medication usage following vaginal delivery.


      We performed a retrospective cohort study of women undergoing a singleton vaginal delivery at an academic tertiary care center. Our institution removed opioid medications from postpartum order sets in April 2018. We compared the following 2 delivery cohorts: the “preintervention” cohort (April 2016–March 2018) and the “postintervention” cohort (June 2018–July 2018). The primary outcome was postpartum opioid use. The secondary outcomes were nonopioid analgesic use and discharge with an opioid prescription. We compared the demographic and obstetrical data, self-reported pain scores, and postpartum analgesic usage between groups. We determined that a minimum of 138 patients would be needed in each group to identify a 20% decrease in opioid usage (α=.05; β=.2).


      We analyzed 276 subjects: 138 in the preintervention group and 138 in the postintervention group. The postintervention group was older and more likely to have an operative vaginal delivery. Otherwise, groups had similar demographic and obstetrical characteristics. Postpartum opioid use decreased from 56% in the preintervention group to 16% in the postintervention group, a 71% reduction (P<.001). The incidence of severe pain score (>7) was similar between groups with a median occurrence of 1 (interquartile range, 0–4) for both (P=.7). The number of opioid discharge prescriptions among those receiving inpatient opioids was significantly lower in the postintervention group than in the preintervention group (18% vs 38%, respectively), a 53% decrease (P<.001).


      Removal of opioids from the postpartum order set was associated with lower rates of opiate usage following vaginal delivery in a single center without changing the frequency of severe pain scores. This simple intervention has the potential to reduce opioid exposure.

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