Implementation of a Pediatric Posttonsillectomy Pain Protocol in a Large Group Practice

Lauren J. Luk, David Mosen, Carol J. MacArthur, Anna H. Grosz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objective In response to the increased risk of respiratory failure and death after tonsillectomy related to codeine use, Kaiser Permanente Northwest restricted use of opioids in patients <7 years old via electronic health record (EHR). However, opioids could be prescribed at physician discretion by overriding the EHR. This study aims to examine protocol compliance in a large group practice using EHR order sets and complication rates as compared with historical data. Study Design Case series with chart review. Setting Ambulatory care within a health maintenance organization. Subjects and Methods Procedural codes were used to identify children <7 years old who underwent tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy approximately 1.5 years before and after implementation of EHR protocol (n = 437). Primary outcome was opioid pain prescriptions received by patients. Secondary outcomes were emergency or urgent care utilization, postoperative bleeding, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, death, and reasons for prescribing opioid pain medication after EHR protocol implementation. Chi-square analysis and Fischer's exact testing were used to compare differences in event rates. Results Implementation of an age-based narcotic protocol significantly decreased physician narcotic prescribing from 82.2% to 15.4% (P <.0001). The most common reason for narcotic prescription after the intervention was the report of inadequate pain control by phone call (35%). There was no significant difference in rate of emergency or urgent care utilization between pre- and postimplementation groups (4% vs 6%, P =.29). Conclusions Implementation of an age-based narcotic restriction for posttonsillectomy patients using an EHR order set is an effective and safe way to influence physician prescription practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-724
Number of pages5
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016


  • bleeding
  • children
  • codeine
  • complication
  • cyp2d6
  • electronic health record
  • narcotic
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • pain
  • pediatric
  • tonsillectomy
  • ultrarapid metabolizer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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