Surgeons shun opioids, turn to Tylenol and anesthetics instead

Surgeons and anesthesiologists across the country are relying on alternative pain treatments to limit the use of opioids post-surgery, reports Bloomberg.

Many physicians now prescribe Tylenol as a preliminary post-operative painkiller, only giving patients opioids if the pain becomes intolerable, according to Phillip Chang, MD, CMO at Lexington, Ky.-based UK Healthcare. Some also recommend alternative pain treatments like massage and meditation to supplement drugs.

"Opioids are being shunned," Lynn Webster, MD, an anesthesiologist and vice president of the research company PRA Health Sciences, told Bloomberg. "Physicians are avoiding prescribing them for fear of losing their licenses."

David Auyong, MD, and Neil Hanson, MD, anesthesiologists at Seattle-based Virginia Mason Medical Center, are promoting the use of regional anesthesia to control pain. The physicians use a catheter to target individual nerves and flush them with bupivacaine, an anesthetic similar to Novocain. A pump continues to release the drug directly to the nerves for two to four days post-surgery. Drs. Auyong and Hanson used this technique to significantly lower the amount of opioids used to treat total knee-replacement patients at the hospital.

"We want patients to be comfortable and the surgeon wants them to be active," Dr. Auyong told Bloomberg. "This technique allows patients to be pain-free without weakness."

More articles on opioids:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich calls $45M to fight opioid abuse under BCRA 'anemic'
Foster care system flooded with children amid opioid epidemic: 5 things to know
Oklahoma AG files suit over opioid epidemic


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