Intermountain establishes opioid-free surgery program

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare launched an opioid-free surgery program, the first-of-its-kind in Utah.

Intermountain tested the new program, which includes surgery protocols developed by the health system's surgeons and anesthesiologists, for three months. The protocols are based on non-addictive and less-addictive pain management alternatives for surgical patients, and opioid prescribing is eschewed.

Protocols include using regional anesthesia, long-acting anesthetics and non-opioid pain medicines, such as Ketamine. The protocols also involve managing patients' and families' expectations of pain management post-surgery and training patients in alternative pain management techniques, such as mindful breathing and yoga exercises.

Patients can request the opioid-free surgery service.

During the three-month pilot, Intermountain surgeons used the new protocols in more than 250 surgeries.

"We've already used the new protocols for many procedures, from cranial surgeries, hernia repairs and hysterectomies to joint replacements," said Nathan Richards, MD, senior medical director for Intermountain Healthcare's surgical specialties clinical program.

The response from patients during the pilot was positive.

"Patients who've opted for the non-narcotic approach in our pilot have been very pleased with the results, so it's a win-win for everyone," he said.


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