NJ surgeon’s patients can recover without addictive painkillers
WILLINGBORO — Following shoulder replacement surgery in February 2017, township resident Tanya Bundy depended plenty on narcotics to ease the pain.
As a recovering drug addict, and aware of the opioid epidemic sweeping the Garden State, Bundy knew she had to be careful with her dosage.
So she was thankful to learn, when getting prepped for another shoulder surgery on Apr. 11, that the team at Lourdes Medical Center would be using a new nerve block designed to control pain and hopefully limit one’s need for addictive prescription painkillers.
Bundy was one of the first two patients in New Jersey to be administered the drug following FDA’s approval for the use on April 6.
Anesthetizing the nerves near the shoulder, Exparel can control patients’ pain for up to 72 hours. A traditional nerve block would help for up to half a day.
For Bundy, the medication did its job. She hasn’t taken any pain medication related to the shoulder arthroscopy.
“With this shoulder, I have not had any pain,” Bundy told New Jersey 101.5. “It actually works.”
According to Dr. Sean McMillan, who performed the state’s first and second opioid-sparing shoulder surgeries with the approved drug, if patients can go a day or two without relying on opioids, the odds are slim they’ll need pain pills at all — or at least a substantial amount of them.
“Statistics show, pretty clearly actually, in orthopedic surgery that one in five patients who use opioids post-surgery run the risk of becoming addicted in some way, shape or form,” McMillan said.
Experal, he said, helps patients through the “pain storm window” following surgery. And, unlike opioids, the drug works directly at the surgical site, not affecting the entire body.
McMillan said he expects Exparel to receive the green-light for surgeries beyond shoulder repair.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.