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Doctors use new procedure to cut down post-op pain

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BATON ROUGE - Cancer is already a tough fight for anyone. Add on surgeries and lots of pain medication, the healing process can feel more like a nightmare for some.

Doctors at Mary Bird Perkins- Our Lady of the Lake are trying to curb the pain and the need for narcotics to help patients bounce back post-surgery.

"I wasn't pleasant at all," says Delina Schexnayder, who is a stage three colon cancer survivor. "The treatment was not pleasant. It was tough for about a year."

That treatment included chemotherapy, radiation, and two surgeries.

"The first surgery was painful, the second time I had the new procedure and there really wasn't near the pain for the second surgery as there was the first," says Schexnayder.

That procedure is the “Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Protocol,” or ERAS.

Dr. Louis Barfield has used the ERAS Protocol for about two years; it starts before a scalpel is even picked up.

"We allow patients to have clear liquids up to about two hours prior to surgery. So the prolong fasting is no longer a case," says Dr. Barfield.

While prepping for colorectal surgery, an anesthesiologist inserts a nerve blocker into the abdomen.

"We have anesthesia do what we call a 'tap block.' We use a long-acting anesthetic that lasts three to four days it helps decrease their pain significantly after surgery," explains Dr. Barfield. "Then after the surgery or at the end of the surgery we use needles to infiltrate or inject the tissues around their wounds or incisions."

The results are a game changer, in a world where opioid use is of epidemic proportions.

"We use drugs like typical Tylenol, Tramadol, Gabapentin. These drugs allow us to eliminate some of the traditional narcotics. We still need some like your oxycodones and maybe a little morphine but not near as much as we needed before,” says Dr. Barfield.

It was a welcome recovery for Delina who worried she’d have to deal with another issue, like an addiction to pain medicines.

"It's just better if you have your normal mind than to take all that pain medicine,” says Delina.

The ERAS Protocol is used for colorectal surgeries and weight loss procedures. Heart and lung doctors are starting to work it into their surgical care as well.


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