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Technology Helps Doctors Ease Patients' Post-Surgery Pain

Technology Helps Doctors Ease Patients' Post-Surgery Pain

SPRINGFIELD -- Surgeries on shoulders and knees are a little less painful in recent years with the arrival of the pain pump. That's a device that delivers local anesthetic directly to the site of surgery. Now plastic surgeons are borrowing the idea and giving their patients more immediate relief in the days following some major surgeries.

Teena Dandurand was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month ago and her prognosis was good. But she was suddenly facing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction that would borrow muscle and tissue from her lower tummy. That's a major surgery with a painful reputation.

"That was one of my biggest fears, the pain and hurting," Dandurand said Up until recently, like most surgeons, Dandurand's plastic surgeon, Dr. Rod Geter, controlled that post-surgical pain with narcotics primarily.

"That helped but really only cut the edge off the pain," said Geter. Geter decided to borrow an idea from surgeons who were working on knees and shoulders.

"Othopedic surgeons were using these pain pumps. They were having great success with the pain of shoulders and knees with having a local anesthetic pumped into the wound, where they've worked in that first 24 to 48 hours; patients were getting significant relief," said Geter.

We joined Teena and her medical team eight hours into her surgery. Doctors had already removed her breasts. Geter was even finished with her breast reconstruction. All that remained was to sew up her abdomen, from where the muscle and tissue had been taken.

This is the time when Geter implants the little tubes lined with holes that carry the local anesthetic.

"We get the little holes aligned the way we want them to drip down local anesthetic to cover the area," the surgeon said.

The anesthetic not only goes to Dandurand's stomach but to her breasts as well. It stays on the outside of her body and lasts for about three days.

Days later, Dandurand said she knows it helped.

"Oh yeah it worked. Dr. Geter didn't tell me it was going to run out," she said.

Reducing the amount of those narcotics reduces the risk of complications and keeps the patient's head clearer after surgery, according to Geter.

"I have about 10 percent who have total relief from pain, feel like Albert Pujols hit a home run. But 90 percent will have a lot less narcotics. That's a tremendous advantage," said Geter.

Geter says more plastic surgeons are using the pain pump these days because patients like Dandurand are getting so much relief in those first few days after surgery.

"It's just another one of those great ideas that I think is really going to catch on," he said.

Each patient should ask his or her doctor about the pain pump and whether it's appropriate for a particular surgery. Dandurand is still doing well. She had her first round of chemotherapy on Thursday and her prognosis is still very good.

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