Children's Opioid Use at Home After Laparoscopic Appendectomy

Published:March 31, 2021DOI:



      To combat the opioid epidemic, prescribers need accurate information about pediatric home opioid requirements to manage acute pain after surgery. Current opioid use estimates come from retrospective surveys; this study used medication adherence technology (eCAP) to track home opioid use.


      To describe children's pain treatment at home after laparoscopic appendectomy, and to compare self-reported opioid analgesic use to eCAP data and counts of returned pills.


      Prospective exploratory and descriptive study


      A convenience sample of 96 patients, 10-17 years of age, from a single urban nonprofit children's hospital consented to self-report pain treatment in 14-day diaries and use eCAP to monitor prescribed opioid use at home after laparoscopic appendectomy.


      Patients were prescribed 5-45 opioid-containing pills (mean ± standard deviation 15 ± 7.2). Of 749 opioid-containing pills prescribed to 49 patients who returned data, 689 pills were dispensed, 167.5 were used for the reason prescribed, 488 were returned to families for disposal, and 53.5 were missing. The majority of the 49 patients were opioid naïve (72%), Caucasian (64%), and male (56%), with a mean age of 14 years. Patients used 6.6 ± 6.3 opioid-containing pills by pill count and 5.6 ± 5.1 by self-report, a significant difference (p = .004). Unreported eCAP-enabled pill bottle openings typically occurred on weekends.


      Medication adherence technology (eCAP) is a more rigorous method than self-report to estimate opioid needs and detect early opioid misuse. Additional rigorously designed studies of postoperative opioid use are needed to guide opioid prescribing.
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