AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A new study led by researchers at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin shows a standardized pain treatment plan for pregnant women implemented in some local hospitals led to reduced opioid use in these new mothers.
It could also lead to reduced opioid addiction later, researchers concluded.
The research team collaborated with Ascension Seton. They studied more than 14,000 women from five central Texas hospitals affiliated with Ascension Seton between April 2016 and February 2018. They analyzed the women 10 months before and one year after the pain plan was implemented.
Dr. Rebecca G. Rogers, the lead author of the study, says the approach in the treatment plan evaluates how well the women function, such as being able to get up or move around comfortably with minimal pain.
“Women were able to function very well with very mild pain and didn’t necessarily need opioids,” she said. “The other things that we did was that we tried to use substitutes for opioids which are less risky for moms and their babies. We moved towards using ibuprofen and Tylenol more regularly to control pain, rather than jumping right ahead to opioids.”
“We found that we were able to reduce the number of women giving vaginal birth who ended up with any opioids by 26 percent and for women who deliver by cesarean deliveries, by 18 percent,” she added. “That’s a pretty big reduction with a fairly simple intervention.”
Rogers, who is the associate chair of clinical integration and operations and a professor in the Department of Women’s Health at Dell Medical School, says the research team was interested in looking into how the treatment plan was working because of the growing opioid crisis nationwide.
“The amount of opioids that women had been given have been increasing over time,” she said. “We also know that a single exposure to an opioid can develop into a long-term dependence.”
An analysis by the Texas Department of State Health Services that looked at maternal deaths between 2012-15 found 64 of 382 confirmed deaths were due to drug overdose. Thirty-seven of them involved opioids.
Rogers hopes the results of this study motivates other facilities to look into forming their own pain treatment plans.
“One of the biggest contributors to maternal mortality in Texas is opioid overdose,” she said. “This is directly relevant to this discussion. I think we all need to play a role in this — doctors, nurses, anybody who is in the care system, as well as patients.’