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Reducing opioid prescriptions to prevent patient addiction at Children's Hospital

For immediate release:
October 15, 2020

LONDON, Ontario – Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is taking part in a ‘Cut the Count’ campaign, aimed at reducing the number of opioids prescribed to patients following surgery. Between April 2019 and March 2020, the goal was to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions given at
discharge for outpatient surgeries by 30 per cent. By the end of the campaign, Children’s Hospital surpassed the target at 77.4 per cent.

“Most importantly, based on the results of the study, patients have experienced little to no difference in pain levels,” says Dr. Leslie Scott, Chief of Paediatric Surgery, Children’s Hospital at LHSC. “We accomplished this through tremendous collaboration from everyone involved including nurses, physicians, patients and parents.”

The ‘Cut the Count’ campaign is a province-wide initiative supported by the Ontario Surgical Quality Improvement Network and National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP). The goal is to help patients manage their pain post-surgery, while cutting the number of opioid pills prescribed upon discharge. 

The campaign was also implemented in the adult outpatient surgical program resulting in almost 60,000 fewer opioid pills and 1,340 fewer morphine doses prescribed to surgical outpatients at LHSC within one year. 

Dr. Scott explains that new research is showing that early use of opioids, such as those given for removing molars in teens can lead to addiction in adulthood. 

The team devised a target and a plan to reduce their prescribing, which included shifting the type of pain-relief prescriptions, where possible, from opioids to other pain management options including anti-inflammatory drugs. Those patients who are prescribed opioids receive the lowest effective dose of the least potent immediate-release opioid for a short duration, typically three days. 

Additionally, pain management strategies that incorporate more than medication alone were implemented to improve pain management for patients. Nonpharmacological methods to manage pain included distraction techniques, which redirects the patient’s attention to something else like playing a game or
watching a movie. 

To achieve the 77 per cent reduction required collaboration and education that started with health-care providers including nurses and physicians. “Staff then worked with families and patients to identify appropriate levels of pain and when to administer medication,” says Dr. Scott. 

Funding for this project was provided by the Division of Paediatric Surgery at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and Children’s Health Foundation.

Dr. Leslie Scott is available from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm on Thursday, October 15 for media interviews. Please contact Erinor Jacob-Levine to book an interview time.

About London Health Sciences Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been at the forefront of medicine in Canada for 145 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, the Kidney Care Centre, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences
Centre has a history of over 75 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca

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For media inquiries contact:
Erinor Jacob-Levine
Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 55721

After-hours assistance:
Call LHSC Switchboard at 519-685-8500 and ask to page the communicator on-call.