New pain management protocol sends 92% of cancer surgery patients home without opioids

A specialized pain management program for patients who underwent robotic surgery for urologic cancers resulted in just 8% going home with narcotics after discharge, compared to 100% who would have received them without this enhanced recovery protocol. What’s more, the group of patients who did receive narcotics went home with fewer pills than they would have under regular guidelines. Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine will present their findings at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Jar of pills on its side with handful of pills spilling out.

“The key to our program was to start patients with over the counter medications, then escalate them as needed. This means patients whose pain can be managed without opioids never end up getting them in the first place, while patients whose pain warrants these prescriptions receive them when needed,” says lead author Ruchika Talwar, a resident in UrologyThomas J. Guzzo, chief of Urology, is the study’s senior author.

Cancer patients are particularly susceptible to opioid addiction, with recent studies showing they are 10 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the general public. About six percent of cancer patients who use opioids for the first time to manage pain after a surgery become addicted.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.