Background: Opioid abuse has become a serious public health issue. While adequate pain management is an ethical responsibility for health care providers, responsible stewardship of controlled substances is of equal concern. Opioids are often prescribed for treatment of acute pain post-operatively. The purpose of this study is to examine opioid prescription practices and use of opioids after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Methods: A convenience sample of 42 patients scheduled for laparoscopic cholecystectomy were enrolled in the study. Using a descriptive study design, patients were interviewed by phone 6-10 days post-operatively using a scripted questionnaire. The average number of excess prescribed opioid medication pills, patient perception of prescribed quantity, duration of opioid use, and average pain score with and without activity on the date of contact was determined. Participants were also asked about any instruction received regarding proper medication disposal. Results: A final sample of 34 patients met inclusion criteria and completed the phone questionnaire. Average number of excess pills ranged from 0-42 (M:14; SD 11.7). Nearly half of patients (47%) perceived the prescribed quantity as 'too many', 41% indicated the prescription quantity was 'just right' but many had left-over pills, and 11.8% believed the prescribed quantity to be 'too few'. The average number of days of opioid use following surgery was 4.2 days with 71% of patients using opioids for five or fewer days. The average pain score at the time of the interview was 2.0 without activity, and 4.1 with activity. Almost all (88%) patients did not recall any instruction or knowledge of appropriate medication disposal. A few participants volunteered plans to dispose of unused medications by various means, while others indicated they planned to keep excess pills. Conclusion: Pain management experts advise using around-the-clock regimens of over-thecounter analgesics (i.e. acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID)) and using opioids sparingly as an adjunct therapy following uncomplicated laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The data in this study indicated currently prescribed opioid quantities after laparoscopic cholecystectomy are more than adequate and could be decreased without affecting adequate pain management. In addition, the data show a large majority of patients are not provided with personalized instruction on proper medication disposal procedures.



College and Department

Nursing; Nursing



Date Submitted


Document Type





laparoscopic cholecystectomy, opioid, medication disposal, prescription, education



Included in

Nursing Commons