"It's a game changer"; New processes reduce opioid use in surgery recovery

Crawford Memorial Hospital has implemented new processes to reduce opioid use in surgery recovery.

Posted: Feb. 13, 2019 7:42 PM

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - Brittney Webster is a surgical nurse at Crawford Memorial Hospital. Every day she works with patients recovering from major surgeries. For colorectal surgeries, she says the biggest hurdle is the pain.

Webster says, "People were in excruciating pain. It was hard to even just be emotional support."

Webster says finding a solution for pain relief was a struggle. A struggle that now may be a thing of the past.

Nurse anesthetist Joseph Grazaitis explains, "Basically it is an entire process that starts in the preoperative area and carries through all the way through the patient's stay in the postoperative period."

The new process uses a mixture of nerve blocks, ultrasound guidance, and catheters to get anesthesia to the right places. General surgeon Joe Kunzelman says the process has had a big impact.

Kunzelman explains, "It is a game changer. To see my two patients this last month that had to have parts of their colons removed, act like we didn't do anything to them is unheard of."

That enhanced recovery also means a change in managing their pain.

Grazaitis says, "What we have seen here in our postoperative period is patients have not been requiring any opioid use at all. And we've been able to manage them with non-opioid medication through their stay."

A new process to help fight the opioid epidemic. Webster says she's just happy to help those who need it.

Webster says, "It makes me feel better to tell our patients 'surgery is not pain-free, but with everything that we can do we can make it tolerable.'"

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