This Medication Eliminated Opioid Use After Surgery in 83% of Patients Studied

This Medication Eliminated Opioid Use After Surgery in 83% of Patients Studied

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The Research At-A-Glance 

In a study funded by the biotech company Heron Therapeutics, more than 90% of patients stayed opioid-free in the 72 hours after surgery and 83% stayed off opioids the full 28-day post-op window.

Patients having hernia repair surgery were given a local anesthetic being trialed by the company along with a commonly used regimen of pain and anesthetic drugs during surgery; they were not offered opioids after surgery. Instead, patients were given the common pain relievers ibuprofen and acetaminophen and the majority did not require an opioid prescription over the 28 day recovery period.

A Bit Of Background

No breaking news here: moderate to severe post-op pain is common in the 72 hours after surgery. Surgery, while essential and sometimes lifesaving, is invasive and causes trauma to our bodies. It’s normal to feel pain after surgery, and medication can keep that pain from becoming intolerable.

But, as we’ve probably all heard by now, prescription pain medications for post-op use have often come in the form of opioids which are known to be overprescribed by some doctors and highly addictive to some patients.

As opioid addiction continues to be a problem in the United States, physicians and healthcare companies have focused on ways to comfort patients after surgery without the use of these problematic drugs. In fact, one component of Enhanced Recovery After Surgery protocols (what we’re focused on here at MendWell) is reducing oral opioid use after surgery and instead relying on less addictive pain relievers like NSAIDs (think: ibuprofen & acetaminophen).

So What’s This Study About? 

There has also been work to change the drugs that your anesthesiologist uses during surgery and their effect on pain levels afterward. Anesthesiologists will use a combination of drugs to keep you safely asleep and pain-free during surgery, one of which is a local anesthetic. Local anesthetics are widely used in minor procedures because they are given, you guessed it, locally (in the area you’re having surgery), and do not make you lose consciousness. They are also used in major procedures to reduce pain along with general anesthesia that keeps you asleep.

While local anesthetics are a great tool during surgery, they are typically only effective for a few hours (sources say anywhere from 4 to 12). And as we learned above, the window in which patients have the highest pain is usually 72 hours after surgery, leaving a patient without pain support in the following days.

So, this company is working on a longer-acting local anesthetic. It’s important to note that the company is calling it an “investigational drug” because it has not been approved by the FDA at the time we are publishing this article. Still, it shows an exciting potential future of fewer opioids and better outcomes for patients. We’ll see what happens next!

Want even more pre-surgery help? Browse the rest of the MendWell blog for empowering patient information, helpful nutrition advice, and at-a-glance medical tips.