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Opioids and Surgery

Gain a practical approach to perioperative opioid stewardship to minimise harms from opioids prescribed at the time of surgery.

1,047 enrolled on this course

Patient sitting in front of a doctor and reading the label on a bottle of pills in his hand.

Opioids and Surgery

1,047 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Advanced level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Unlimited subscription

    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Discover how efficacy and likelihood of harm of opioids differ between patients.

Opioids play an important role in facilitating recovery and return to function after surgery. However, it is now well-established that surgery is a risk factor for persistent postoperative opioid use.

On this three-week course, you’ll explore the key concepts of opioid stewardship. You’ll learn how to minimise the risks associated with opioid use around the time of surgery whilst allowing safe administration to patients who are most likely to benefit from them.

Understand the use of opioids in the perioperative setting

You’ll examine the causes of the world-wide opioid crisis. This will help you understand the challenges of balancing the benefits of opioids against the risks of prescribed opioid-related harm. You’ll also discuss inadequate perioperative pain management leading to poor patient outcomes.

Learn about opioid pharmacology

You’ll learn about the mechanisms of opioid tolerance and dependence, opioid use disorder and non-opioid responsive pain, as well as persistent postoperative opioid use.

You’ll also explore the different properties of opioid drugs that are responsible for both their desired analgesic actions and the adverse drug-related patient outcomes we try to avoid.

Improve the use of opioids in your setting

Through the concept of opioid stewardship, you’ll learn how to promote appropriate safe opioid prescribing and minimise adverse drug events and persistent postoperative opioid use.

You’ll discuss practical strategies including opioid-free and opioid-sparing anaesthesia and analgesia.

Learn with pain management experts at UCL

Throughout the course, you’ll learn from experts at University College London (UCL) and the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Pain Management Centre, Complex Pain Team and Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine.

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  • Week 1

    Opioids in the perioperative setting

    • Welcome to the course and to Week 1

      An introduction to the educators and an overview of what you’ll learn on the course

    • Opioids and surgery

      Why we need perioperative opioid stewardship

    • Evolution of the US opioid epidemic

      We explore the origins of the opioid epidemic and the role played by the use of prescribed opioids in the perioperative setting

    • The evolving global crisis

      Exploration of the differing extent of the opioid epidemic worldwide

    • International variation in opioid prescribing

      International differences in opioid prescribing practices

    • Persistent postoperative opioid use

      Exploring the risk factors for PPOU and potential solutions

    • End of Week 1

      End of week summary & preview of next week

  • Week 2

    Opioid pharmacology

    • Introduction to Week 2

      A preview of what you’ll learn in Week 2

    • How opioids work

      What are opioids and how do they exert their effects

    • Perioperative opioid use

      Why are opioid used for pain relief around the time of surgery?

    • Unwanted effects of opioids

      Why do some people find it difficult to stop taking opioids?

    • End of Week 2

      End of week summary & preview of next week

  • Week 3

    Solutions & best practice

    • Introduction to Week 3

      A preview of what you’ll learn in Week 3

    • Opioid stewardship

      We explore the concept of opioid stewardship and discuss the challenges of implementation.

    • Best practice: before surgery

      Preoperative preparation and education and optimising patients' pain and pain medications prior to surgery

    • Best practice: during surgery

      Intra-operative interventions to reduce the risk of opioid-related harm

    • Best practice: after surgery

      Postoperative interventions to reduce the risk of opioid-related adverse events and persistent postoperative opioid use

    • Best practice: discharge from hospital

      We discuss best practices for discharge planning after surgery. We revisit the problems of CPSP and PPOU, and discuss novel interventions to tackle them.

    • Opioid tolerance & opioid use disorder

      We discuss the challenges in caring for patients with opioid tolerance and opioid use disorder

    • Legal frameworks

      Rules & regulations affecting opioid prescribing in different countries

    • Course conclusion

      Summary of learning and signposting to next steps

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the reasons for persistent postoperative opioid use and its contribution to the development of the international opioid epidemic.
  • Engage in a discussion on global variation in perioperative opioid use with healthcare professionals from around the world.
  • Justify the reasons for using different opioid and non-opioid analgesics for the management of acute pain in the perioperative setting.
  • Summarise the basic pharmacology of opioids and the mechanisms associated with their therapeutic and harmful effects.
  • Evaluate the component parts of opioid stewardship which are aimed at reducing persistent postoperative opioid use and its subsequent harms.
  • Reflect upon the challenges of managing perioperative pain in patients with opioid tolerance and/or dependence.

Who is the course for?

This course is for all members of the multidisciplinary team involved in providing pain relief for patients who are having, or have had, surgery. This includes an international audience of:

  • Doctors, nurses and physician associates providing anaesthesia, surgical or perioperative care
  • Nurses and specialists caring for patients recovering from surgery in the Recovery room, Post-Anaesthetic Care Unit, Critical Care Unit and on surgical wards
  • Specialist pain nurses
  • General practitioners
  • Physiotherapists, clinical psychologists, chiropractors, osteopaths and other allied health professionals with an interest in pain medicine
  • Students who are still training in these individual professions Healthcare professionals might find the Certificate of Achievement for this course useful for providing evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or commitment to their career.

Who will you learn with?

Dr Fausto Morell-Ducos is a consultant in anaesthesia and pain medicine at UCH, and an honorary lecturer at UCL. His specialist interests include complex pain management and opioid stewardship.

Dermot is an anaesthesia registrar at UCLH. He recently completed fellowships in pain medicine at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital & the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery.

A Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Management at UCLH and the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery. Chair of the Opioid Stewardship Committee at UCLH.

Dr Thomas Reed is an anaesthetic trainee (CT1) based at King's College Hospital NHS Trust in London.

Who developed the course?

UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. It was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, and the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$244.99 for one whole year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 16 Mar 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 4 March 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 4 March 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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