The Effect of Surgical Trainee Education on Opioid Prescribing: An International Evaluation

Jake G. Prigoff*, Ashley L. Titan, Adam C. Fields, Chaya Shwaartz, Nelya Melnitchouk, Ronald Bleday, Mary T. Hawn, Lisa Wiechmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Up to 6% of opioid naive patients who undergo surgery become chronic opioid users. The aim of this study was to determine if formal opioid prescribing education of general surgery residents is associated with decreased opioid prescribing postoperatively. METHODS: We surveyed surgery residents at 3 general surgery programs in the United States and 1 in Israel. Residents were divided into 2 groups based on whether or not they received formal opioid prescribing education. RESULTS: Of those surveyed, 107 (50%) responded. 45% of residents had formal opioid prescribing education, which included instructional videos, current literature, and hospital guidelines. For the 4 operations analyzed, residents who received no formal teaching prescribed a higher number of opioids (lumpectomy p = 0.001, open inguinal hernia repair p = 0.004, laparoscopic appendectomy p = 0.007, thyroidectomy p = 0.002). The largest difference in opioid prescribing was seen in “high prescribers,” defined as residents prescribing 15 or more opioid pills. For thyroidectomy, 24.4% of residents without formal education prescribed 20 or more oxycodone 5mg pills compared to 0% of residents with formal education. The Israeli cohort was less likely to receive a pain focused education and was also less likely to prescribe opioids to their patients for all 4 procedures evaluated. CONCLUSIONS: Although a minority of general surgery residents are receiving an opioid prescribing education, a formal educational program was associated with significantly decreased opioid prescribing. There is a need for a generalizable educational opioid program for surgery residents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1490-1495
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • opioid education
  • opioid prescribing
  • resident education
  • surgery opioid prescribing
  • surgical education


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