Enhanced recovery protocol after cesarean delivery: impact on opioid use and pain perception.

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BACKGROUND: Opioids are routinely prescribed to patients postoperatively after cesarean delivery. With rates of cesarean deliveries increasing globally and the opioid epidemic continuing to have deleterious effects, finding methods to achieve effective pain control without opioids is of increasing importance. The ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) protocol applied following cesarean delivery engages multimodal perioperative management techniques to encourage early recovery. In the obstetrical surgery setting, these interventions include increasing scheduled nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug administration and laxative use to improve postoperative gastrointestinal motility and pain scores. Postcesarean patients are also encouraged to use abdominal binders, incentive spirometry, and early movement as pain modulators.

OBJECTIVE: This quality improvement study aimed to measure whether the introduction of an ERAS protocol following cesarean delivery at a United States-based health network would improve outcomes such as the use of opioid medications for pain and pain control.

STUDY DESIGN: This single-center retrospective cohort study compared patients who gave birth via cesarean delivery before (n=1425) and after (n=3478) the implementation of the postsurgical recovery protocol. Outcomes of interest included total postoperative opioid medications used, discharge opioid prescription, average pain score, pain scores by postoperative day, and highest pain score. Patients with a history of opioid use disorder, those who underwent a cesarean hysterectomy, and those who experienced a major surgical complication at delivery were excluded. Data were collected from the electronic medical record.

RESULTS: Patients in the postimplementation period used significantly fewer opioid medications than those who gave birth before the protocol was introduced at the institution. The total median opioid use before implementation was 75 morphine milligram equivalents (interquartile range, 45-112.5) vs 30 (interquartile range, 15-52.5) after implementation (

CONCLUSION: Implementation of multimodal pain regimens following cesarean delivery, such as the ERAS protocol, which incorporate both pharmacologic (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, laxatives) and nonpharmacologic methods (abdominal binders, deep breathing, movement) can be effective for pain control and may decrease postoperative opioid prescribing needs, thus mitigating the potential for opioid misuse and dependence.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residents, USF-LVHN SELECT Program, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Faculty, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Students, Fellows and Residents

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