I had the privilege of co-chairing the 2021 Pain Summit hosted by American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). In the months preceding the summit, ASA physician volunteers and staff as well as representatives from 14 other surgical specialty and healthcare organizations worked towards achieving consensus on a common set of principles to guide physicians and other clinicians who manage acute perioperative pain.
These 7 proposed principles are:
Conduct a preoperative evaluation including assessment of medical and psychological conditions, concomitant medications, history of chronic pain, substance abuse disorder, and previous postoperative treatment regimens and responses, to guide the perioperative pain management plan.
Use a validated pain assessment tool to track responses to postoperative pain treatments and adjust treatment plans accordingly.
Offer multimodal analgesia, or the use of a variety of analgesic medications and techniques combined with nonpharmacological interventions, for the treatment of postoperative pain in adults.
Provide patient and family-centered, individually tailored education to the patient (and/or responsible caregiver), including information on treatment options for managing postoperative pain, and document the plan and goals for postoperative pain management.
Provide education to all patients (adult) and primary caregivers on the pain treatment plan, including proper storage and disposal of opioids and tapering of analgesics after hospital discharge.
Adjust the pain management plan based on adequacy of pain relief and presence of adverse events.
Have access to consultation with a pain specialist for patients who have inadequately controlled postoperative pain or at high risk of inadequately controlled postoperative pain at their facilities (e.g., long-term opioid therapy, history of substance use disorder).
This is the first project from this new collaborative, which focused on the adult surgical patient, and there are already plans for future projects. The participating organizations are:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American College of Surgeons
American Hospital Association
American Medical Association
American Society of Breast Surgeons
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our personal and professional lives.
In the midst of this pandemic, we still have an opioid epidemic. It is not one thing unfortunately, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe three distinct waves of opioid-related overdose deaths.
Given the complexity of the opioid epidemic, we have to keep working within our spheres of influence. For those of us in anesthesiology, that means focusing on surgical patients: improving their outcomes and providing effective perioperative pain management along with opioid stewardship.
At our institution, we offer patients regional anesthesia and have been able to decrease the amount of opioid pills that patients are given when they leave the hospital by basing the prescription on how much they use the prior day. Patients participate in this process, and we give them clear instructions on how to safety taper their opioids at home.
As a representative of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), I have been able to collaborate with surgical societies such as the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to develop pain management recommendations and toolkits that emphasize multimodal analgesia, use of regional anesthesia techniques for targeted non-opioid pain management when it is available, and opioid safety in the hospital and at home.
Despite the massive amount of resources, human effort, and time dedicated to the fight against COVID-19, we have still managed to make progress in decreasing opioid-related risk in the perioperative period. However, there is still a lot of work left to do, and our patients are depending on us.
Edward R. Mariano, MD, MAS, is a physician specializing in anesthesiology, professor, husband, and father working to improve pain control, outcomes, and the overall experience for patients having surgery