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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2019 Nov 4. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001909. [Epub ahead of print]

Prescribing Patterns of Oral Opioid Analgesic for Acute Pain at a Tertiary Care Children's Hospital Emergency Departments and Urgent Cares.

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From the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Section of Emergency Medicine.
Section of Hospitalist Medicine.
Clinical Effectiveness.
Department of Anesthesia.
Department of Pharmacy.
Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora, CO.



Despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on adult opioid prescribing, there is a paucity of evidence and no guidelines to inform opioid prescribing in pediatrics. To develop guidelines on pediatric prescribing, it is imperative to evaluate current practice on opioid use. The objectives were to describe prescribing patterns of opioids for acute pain at a children's hospital and to compare clinical characteristics of patients who received less or greater than 3 days.


A retrospective review of oral opioid analgesics prescribed for acute pain at a tertiary care children's hospital emergency department and urgent care from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017. Patients younger than 22 years who received an opioid prescription upon discharge were included. Patients with hematology/oncology or chronic pain diagnosis were excluded.


Opioids were prescribed for a median of 2.2 days (interquartile range, 1.4-3.0 days). Most opioids were prescribed for ≤3 days (1326; 79.3%), and there were 44 (2.6%) prescriptions for >7 days. Twenty-two opioid formulations were prescribed. Single-ingredient oxycodone was the most commonly prescribed (877; 52.5%); there were 724 (43.3%) acetaminophen combination products. Common diagnoses were orthopedic (973; 58.2%), surgery/burn/trauma (195; 11.7%), and ear/nose/throat (143; 8.6%). Patients who received >3 days of opioids were younger (P < 0.001), and there was no differences in sex, ethnicity, insurance, or provider qualifications.


Overall, prescribing patterns for the duration of opioid analgesics were ≤3 days, with a median of 2 days. There was a large range of days prescribed, with variations in prescribing characteristics among patients and providers.

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