Implementation of an enhanced recovery after thoracic surgery care pathway for thoracotomy patients-achieving better pain control with less (schedule II) opioid utilization

Karishma Kodia, Joy A. Stephens-McDonnough, Ahmed Alnajar, Nestor R. Villamizar, Dao M. Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Enhanced recovery after surgery protocols incorporate evidence-based practices of pre-, intra- and post-operative care to achieve the most optimal surgical outcome, safe on-time discharge, and surgical cost efficiency. Such protocols have been adapted for specialty-specific needs and are implemented by a variety of surgical disciplines including general thoracic surgery. This study aims to evaluate the impact of our enhanced recovery after thoracic surgery (ERATS) protocol on postoperative outcomes, pain, and opioid utilization following thoracotomy. Methods: This is a retrospective analysis of patients undergoing elective resection of intrathoracic neoplasms via posterolateral thoracotomy between 1/1/2016 and 3/1/2020. Our enhanced recovery protocol, with a focus on multimodal pain management (opioid-sparing analgesics, infiltration of local anesthetics into intercostal spaces and surgical wounds, and elimination of thoracic epidural analgesia) was initiated on 2/1/2018. Demographics, clinicopathology data, subjective pain levels, peri-operative outcomes, in-hospital and post-discharge opioid utilization were obtained from the electronic medical record. Results: A total of 98 patients (43 pre- and 55 post-protocol implementation) were included in this study. There was no difference in perioperative outcomes or percentage of opioid utilization between the two cohorts. The enhanced recovery group had significantly less acute pain. A significant reduction of in-hospital potent schedule II opioid use was noted following ERATS implementation [average MME: 10.5 (3.5-16.5) (ERATS) vs. 19.5 (12.6-36.0) (pre-ERATS), P<0.0001]. More importantly, a drastic reduction of total and schedule II opioids dispensed at discharge was noted in the ERATS group [total MME: 150 (100.0-330.0) vs. 800.0 (450.0-975.0), P<0.0001 and schedule II MME: 90.0 (0-242.2) vs. 800.0 (450.0-975.0), P<0.0001; ERATS vs. pre-ERATS respectively]. A shorter hospital stay (median difference of 1 day, P=0.0012 and a mean difference of 2.4 days, P=0.0054) was observed in the enhanced recovery group. Conclusions: Implementation of an enhanced recovery protocol for thoracotomy patients is safe and associated with elimination of thoracic epidural analgesia, decreased postoperative pain, shorter hospitalization, drastic reduction of post-discharge opioid dispensed and decreased dependence on addiction-prone schedule II narcotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3948-3959
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Enhanced recovery after thoracic surgery (ERATS)
  • Post-operative opioid utilization
  • Post-operative pain
  • Thoracotomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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