Many of you, I'm sure, are aware of the frequent news stories about the opioid epidemic that is on the rise in our country, and specifically here in Utah. "What can be done about this?" you may be asking yourself. As an anesthesiologist at Brigham City Community Hospital, I am on the front lines of that war.
I commend other hospitals in Utah that have shifted post-surgical pain management away from opioids and towards more regional anesthesia techniques (nerve blocks). This has been done at other facilities by creating a regional anesthesia team or acute pain service that provide post-operative pain reduction and regional nerve blocks to patients when appropriate. In basic terms, these nerve blocks make a specific part of the body numb after surgery to relieve pain as an alternative to opioids. I agree with, and embrace, this approach as a way to manage pain safely and effectively while reducing the need to prescribe opioids.
At Brigham City Community Hospital, we have been utilizing these techniques for years. Using ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia, we have been able to create an environment for the best possible recovery and experience with the most current technologies available.
Our pain services are utilized by all specialty lines at the hospital. Our hip, knee, and shoulder replacements all receive ultrasound-guided nerve blocks for post-operative pain control--some with pain catheters for pain relief lasting up to three days. Our abdominal surgeries, including gall bladders, appendix, bowel surgeries, and hernia repairs, all receive post-operative pain blocks using ultrasound before going to the recovery room.
One of our general surgeons, Dr. Lance Bryce, recently said, "I used to get phone calls about pain on about one third of my patients. Since utilizing this service, I have not had one phone call for pain control in the middle of the night."
Our obstetric patients who have a C-section receive post-operative abdominal ultrasound nerve blocks to minimize pain and improve recovery while also decreasing opioid use. These techniques are very safe and effective. Our anesthesia team is very proficient and they are always looking at ways to improve outcomes and experiences while at our hospital.
There are many advantages to using regional anesthesia techniques and minimizing opioid use such as: reduction of addiction potential with narcotics, minimizing constipation, avoiding the side effects of opioids, and creating an environment for a more rapid and comfortable recovery.
Brigham City Community Hospital is progressive in their approach to patient care and experience. We're doing what we can locally to reduce pain and minimize opioid use. As an anesthesia team, we are lucky to have the support of this hospital in creating outcomes that are the best for our surgical patients.