The surgeons at Evansville Surgical Associates are in a unique position to make a difference not only by saving lives with advanced medical procedures, but also by saving lives based on how we manage prescription pain medications like opioids for patients who’ve undergone surgical procedures.
The grave reality of the opioid epidemic in the Tri-State region, as well as the nation, has propelled us to be aggressive leaders in changing the culture of prescribing pain medications. It’s imperative that we educate patients about how to either avoid or to responsibly use pain medications, whether for post-surgical recovery or for chronic pain.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Indiana medical providers wrote 74.2 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons compared to the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions in 2017 (the last year that complete statistics were compiled by the CDC). However, the 2017 prescribing rate represents more than a 31% decrease from a peak of 107.1 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in 2010. We’re hopeful that updated statistics will continue to show a downward trend of physician prescriptions of opioids as well as opioid addictions.
Here’s how Evansville Surgical Associates’ surgeons are doing their part to help each of our patients avoid the life-ravaging effects of opioid addiction:
Helping Patients Prepare For Best Surgical Outcome
We’ve found that when patients know what to do mentally and physically to prepare for the best possible surgical experience and outcome—including what’s considered a healthy expectation for pain relief following surgery—their need for prescription pain medication is greatly reduced.
We prepare our surgical patients by starting with an educational pamphlet prepared by the American College of Surgeons called Strong For Surgery. The information helps improve overall health and increase the likelihood of a positive surgical outcome by addressing four common risk factors:
- Blood Sugar Control
- Smoking Cessation
For example, you may find it interesting that nutritional status is currently the single most important independent predictor of outcomes in any type of surgery. Plus, specialized nutrition formulas can help prevent infection complications by 40–60%. On the other hand, smoking is linked to a 40% higher rate of post-surgery complications such as infections and cardiovascular events.
The more successful the surgical outcome and recovery period is, the lower the need for pain medications.
Helping Patients Prepare For Pain Management
Today, it’s more important than ever that health providers and patients work together to understand the risks of pain medications like opioids. Unfortunately, at one point in time it was common to assume patients would need a strong prescription medication to manage pain after surgery. And patients assumed it was not an issue to take these medications for as long as they felt necessary.
However, we know better now.
By discussing with patients how to prepare for and manage pain following a medical procedure, our surgeons and doctors can help patients avoid opioid use altogether in many cases, or at least handle it responsibly in others.
We strongly advocate that each patient do the following:
- Ask your surgeon if it’s okay to use over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil).
- Ask your surgeon how long you should expect to have pain.
- Ask your surgeon to provide information about the surgery, medications, and any expected pain, so that you may inform your family doctor.
- Know which physician to call if your pain is not controlled, getting worse, or you’re having side effects from opioids.
- Only use the opioid pain medicine for severe pain. Skip a dose if pain is tolerable, or wait longer between taking opioids as your pain lessens
- Only use your opioids for surgical pain. Do not use your pills for any other reasons.
- Do not mix opioids with alcohol or other medications that can cause drowsiness.
- Request fewer opioid pills if you have small children or teenagers in the house.
- Safely store opioids out of reach of small children, teens, and pets.
We are also committed to helping our patients know how to safely dispose of unused opioids. There are several drug take-back programs in the Tri-State region that promote safe disposal of opioids. Drop-off centers for unused opioids include:
- Deaconess Family Pharmacy
- 24 Hour CVS/Walgreens locations
- City of Newburgh Police Dept.
- Boonville Police Dept.
- Chandler Police Dept.
- Mount Vernon Police Dept.
Pain Relief Without Prescriptions
In addition, we provide patients with informational material about other ways to control pain aside from prescription medications. To start with, most people don’t realize that over-the-counter medications may be all they need for pain control. In fact, most patients report using less than half of their opioid pills, and many patients don’t use any of their prescribed opioid pills.
Beyond that, activities like mindful breathing, icing, resting, and exercising within your restrictions can help alleviate pain. For example, studies have shown that mindful breathing can help manage pain and anxiety after surgery.
It’s recommended that patients practice mindful breathing twice a day for 10 minutes, 2 to 3 weeks before and 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. Sit in a comfortable position and slowly breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, then breathe out slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds.
Recognize Your Risk
Anyone can become addicted to pain medications, even if they have never had any problems with addictions to alcohol or drugs in the past. Still, it’s also important for patients to recognize if they’re at an increased risk of developing an addiction to pain medication. You have a higher risk of developing an addiction to opioids if you:
- Take opioids for longer than a week.
- Have a history of depression or anxiety.
- Have a history of using or abusing alcohol, tobacco, or street and prescription drugs.
- Have a history of long term (chronic) pain.
- Feel a need to take more pills, more often, than your doctor prescribed.
At Evansville Surgical Center, we’re dedicated to our patients’ well-being after surgery as well as before and during any medical procedures. We are committed to helping each patient recover as quickly and painlessly as possible, so that they can enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle for many years to come.
Established in 1969, Evansville Surgical Associates celebrates 50 years of providing leading-edge comprehensive and compassionate surgical care. Learn more about our physicians and our practices by visiting our website, or by calling us at 812.424.8231 or 800.264.8231.