Discharge prescription practices may contribute to medication overuse and polypharmacy. We aimed to estimate changes in the number and types of medications reported at inpatient discharge (versus admission) at a tertiary care pediatric hospital.


Electronic medication reconciliation data were extracted for inpatient admissions at The Hospital for Sick Children from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017 (n = 22 058). Relative changes in the number of medications and relative risks (RRs) of specific types and subclasses of medications at discharge (versus admission) were estimated overall and stratified by the following: sex, age group, diagnosis of a complex chronic condition, surgery, or ICU (PICU) admission. Micronutrient supplements, nonopioid analgesics, cathartics, laxatives, and antibiotics were excluded in primary analyses.


Medication counts at discharge were 1.27-fold (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.25–1.29) greater than admission. The change in medications at discharge (versus admission) was increased by younger age, absence of a complex chronic condition, surgery, PICU admission, and discharge from a surgical service. The most common drug subclasses at discharge were opioids (22% of discharges), proton pump inhibitors (18%), bronchodilators (10%), antiemetics (9%), and corticosteroids (9%). Postsurgical patients had higher RRs of opioid prescriptions at discharge (versus admission; RR: 13.3 [95% CI: 11.5–15.3]) compared with nonsurgical patients (RR: 2.38 [95% CI: 2.22–2.56]).


Pediatric inpatients were discharged from the hospital with more medications than admission, frequently with drugs that may be discretionary rather than essential. The high frequency of opioid prescriptions in postsurgical patients is a priority target for educational and clinical decision support interventions.

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