New advancements in pharmaceuticals are reducing postoperative pain at the incision site for patients after a wide variety of surgeries, including colorectal surgery, bariatric and plastic surgeries, and caesarean sections.
For some time, anesthesiologists have used transverse abdominal plane blocks to reduce incision-site pain.
A TAP block is a local anesthetic that is a peripheral nerve block designed to numb the nerves in the abdominal wall. TAP blocks are used during many abdominal surgeries, including cesarean section births, and they provide pain relief for as long as six hours.
Once the TAP block wears off, patients are reliant on opioid medications, such as morphine or oxycodone, to manage pain.
These medications work by binding the receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other areas of the body to reduce pain messages sent to the brain and thus the feeling of pain.
Although effective at relieving pain, opioid medications are narcotics, and they have a long list of unwanted side effects.
Common short-term side effects include drowsiness, slow breathing, constipation and nausea. Long-term side effects include physical dependence and addiction. In addition to these concerns, for breast-feeding mothers, there are potential side effects for infants.
The traditional TAP block can now be done using a new medication called Exparel, which can provide pain control for as long as 72 hours post-surgery. Patients do not have pain at the incision site immediately after surgery and for as long as three days.
As a result, patients require much less pain medicine after surgery, reducing their risk of the side effects of painkillers.
This new medicine is currently used during laparoscopic surgical procedures and is ideal for use on mothers after caesarean births.
A caesarean is a surgical procedure that requires an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus to deliver a baby.
Today, a caesarean section is performed with a horizontal incision just above the edge of the bladder. The incision is usually four to six inches long. Recovery time after the surgery is four to six weeks.
Reducing pain immediately after a caesarean section allows new mothers to move about easier, often leading to faster healing. It also allows mothers to feel more comfortable while caring for their infants.
Regardless of the procedure, new developments in postoperative care are helping reduce pain and speed recovery for many patients.