Over the summer of 2018 I spent ten weeks researching the effects of a multimodal, holistic perioperative program on post-surgical opioid use in Pennsylvania Hospital. Spinal neurosurgery, despite recent advances, still results in significant morbidity, as well as significant opioid use for pain management. To solve this, a holistic approach known as Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) is being implemented in Pennsylvania Hospital’s neurosurgery department. We hoped to find that less opioid use was found in opioid-naïve patients, which would suggest a positive outcome and help reduce the scale of the ongoing opioid epidemic. We did not find this, but did mark a significant decrease in post-surgical opioid use by opioid non-naïve patients.
Through this experience, I gained knowledge in data gathering and experiment design, as well as proper methods towards obtaining clean and valid data sets in clinical environments. Additionally, I learned how to construct and define a clinical population and data parameters. By participating in this project, I was able to hone my data analysis and statistical coding skills, as well as expose myself to more clinical situations that inspired me to keep working at my hopeful path of applying to medical school.
Furthermore, this project allowed me to follow multiple patients through their perioperative pathways and see the benefits of ERAS through both data and anecdotal accounts. Unlike much of wet-lab research, the effects of clinical efforts to improve patients’ experiences were immediately apparent and very rewarding. Seeing people benefit from research objectives and experimental inquiries was rewarding in a personal manner.