Surgeons are discovering a new alternative for pain relief that keeps patient’s comfortable in the first few days after surgery. A long-acting local anesthetic called EXPAREL is injected at the time of surgery and keeps patients pain free without the use of addictive narcotics.
By Stephan Finical, MD & Kevin Smith, MD
and Carolynn Grimes
The Plastic Surgery Channel
“The first patient I ever used EXPAREL on actually sat up in the recovery room and thanked me,” says Dr. Stephan Finical, a board certified plastic surgeon in Charlotte, North Carolina. His colleague at Charlotte Plastic Surgery, Dr. Kevin Smith, agrees. “I think it’s been great for abdominoplasty patients. Our tummy tuck patients get through those first three days without much discomfort. They are up and about, moving around more freely, and they are so much more comfortable.” Getting patients up and moving is important after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots. Smith says if patients are comfortable, they don’t mind getting up; it’s a much easier process.
Dr. Finical and Dr. Smith have also started using EXPAREL on Mastopexy (breast lift) and face lift patients. “While those operations don’t hurt too much, having less pain and not having to take narcotics, really makes the post-operative recovery much more pleasant and a better overall surgical experience, ” states Smith.
Pain Free without Narcotics
Finical says another benefit for using EXPAREL is he can take care of patients without having to prescribe narcotics. He says pain medication can often make patients sick to their stomach, feel dizzy or constipated. “It’s also much safer,” says Finical. Prescription drug abuse is the number one drug addiction in America, above heroin and cocaine, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “Now, we don’t have to rely on high doses of narcotics that lead to addiction and complications,” says Smith.
In a recent study using EXPAREL, Smith and Finical looked at pain management after surgery. Smith says, “We found that the average number of pain pills the day after surgery that patients took was four. In general, the amount of pain pills was 60 percent lower than the average patient before this medication.”
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October of 2011, the analgesic is made by Pacira Pharmaceuticals.