NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Vanderbilt University Medical Center is conducting a study to avoid over-prescribing of opiates to women who undergo a cesarean section by pinpointing the appropriate number of opiates based on the patient's needs.
Dr. Sarah Osmundson said despite strict prescription rules in Tennessee, most women who undergo a C-section are sent home with more opioids than they need, but a significant proportion of women use all opioids and report unmet pain needs.
"We over-prescribe and certainly there is greater awareness of over-prescribing, but I think a lot of physicians like myself don't know what to give people so we need data to drive what people need," Dr. Osmundson told NewsChannel 5.
She is going to conduct a three-part study that will include surveys and phone calls post-surgery to find out how many opioids patients are using. Furthermore, the study will monitor specific prescription bottles with Bluetooth-enabled caps that patients take home with them.
"The bottles will send a Bluetooth signal that we can download, and that basically gives us a list of when they open and close bottles," she said.
Additionally, patients will also take home a bottle of ibuprofen with the same cap to help the pattern of use between over-the-use drugs and opioids. Osmundson believes this will help doctors build an indicator when prescribing opiates.
"It may be that most women fall into one category and there are two or three other categories, but ultimately we want to be able to take a number of factors and say based on these factors you need 13 tablets, for example," Osmundson explained.
Eventually, the tool will be built into an electronic health record. The data can be pulled from the patient’s chart and so the model can be transferred to other institutions.
Keandra Hunter delivered her new baby girl this week by C-section, and agrees with the study. She is using Tylenol so far to treat her pain and hopes to stay away from opioids.
"At this time I'm trying to avoid it, and I don't feel like I need it either," Hunter said. "I don't want to keep something there that I don't need, anything could happen."
There are nearly four million deliveries each year in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. About a third of the delivers are Cesarean. VUMC has about 4,500 deliveries every year.