Development of Multimodal Analgesia Pathways in Outpatient Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery and Association With Postoperative Opioid Prescription Patterns

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Prescription opioid use contributes to drug-related adverse effects and risk for dependence and abuse. Multimodal analgesia (MMA) has been shown to be useful in reducing opioid use following orthopedic, gynecologic, and colorectal surgery, but adoption in head and neck surgery has lagged. Recently, we published findings related to the feasibility of MMA protocols in same-day thyroid, parathyroid, and parotid surgery. However, whether such strategies lead to effective and durable reduction in frequency of opioid prescriptions, and affect physician prescribing practices, remains unclear.


To observe trends in adoption and adherence to institutional MMA protocols following thyroid and parathyroid surgery, and to assess the association of institutional multimodal (nonopioid) analgesia protocols with opioid use and physician prescribing patterns following outpatient thyroid and parathyroid surgery.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Cohort study at a head and neck surgery service at a tertiary care hospital of prescription patterns and retrospective review of patient medical records following implementation of an optional institutional MMA protocol in 2015, based on preoperative administration of acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and gabapentin, and postoperative use of acetaminophen and ibuprofen for analgesia after thyroid and parathyroid surgery. There were 528 adult patients who underwent thyroid and parathyroid surgery between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures

We report on adherence to the MMA protocol over the study period as measure of physician buy-in and adoption of the technique. The frequency of opioid use and physician prescription patterns following thyroid and parathyroid surgery is reported over the study period to study the association of the available MMA pathway with these variables.


A total of 528 patients (mean [SD] age, 53.1 [15.7] years; 80.3% female) underwent outpatient thyroid and parathyroid surgery. The frequency of postoperative opioid prescriptions decreased during the study period (16 of 122 [13.1%] in 2015, 22 of 244 [9.0%] in 2016, 3 of 162 [1.9%] in 2017). Adherence to the MMA protocol increased (0 of 122 cases in 2015, 106 of 244 [43.4%] cases in 2016, 142 of 162 [87.7%] cases in 2017), with reduced likelihood of opioid prescription on discharge (2017 vs 2015 odds ratio, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.04-0.44). Only 1 postoperative hematoma was recorded in the study cohort, and 352 (66.7%) patients achieved same-day discharge, whereas 176 (33.3%) maintained outpatient status but received overnight observation prior to discharge.

Conclusions and Relevance

Adoption and adherence to the MMA protocol increased substantially over the study period for patients undergoing thyroid and parathyroid surgery and was associated with a simultaneous significant decline in prescription of postoperative opioid analgesics. Use of nonopioid multimodal agents, incorporating NSAIDs, was safe and did not lead to increased incidence of bleeding. Availability of effective nonopioid MMA pathways may favorably influence physician prescribing practices and avoid unnecessary opioid prescriptions.

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