Summa Health's chief anesthesiologist wants to eliminate opiates from surgeries

Megan Knowles - Print  | 

In response to the opioid crisis, Akron, Ohio-based Summa Health is drastically reducing the use of opioids in surgeries, according to News 5 Cleveland.

In 2017, Summa used narcotics in 98 percent of procedures, but that number is now at 20 percent. The health system aims to use narcotics in 10 percent or less of all surgeries by the end of the year.

"My goal is to eliminate the opiates from what we do in the operating room completely," said Thomas Mark, MD, chairman of the anesthesiology department at Summa Health.

Studies have found addiction can begin with only one dose of an opioid during surgery for up to 6 percent of patients, Dr. Mark said. "That's unacceptable. We do 20,000 cases here at Summa. That means just because somebody had the audacity to have surgery, 450 people potentially face addiction," he said.

Instead of opioids, Summa is using regional blocks with local anesthesia, a continuous peripheral nerve block that can deliver medication directly to an affected area, or a combination of over-the-counter pills, therapy and pain management.

Dr. Mark said he's also telling surgeons to reduce the amount of pain pills prescribed to patients after surgery.

Since the changes, the health system has reported higher satisfaction ratings, and patients are returning home sooner as they recover more quickly.  

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