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Using a Catheter for Post-Op Pain Management

Posted March 28, 2021 by Aisha Rahman, MD

older woman laying in bed

Undergoing surgery can be a stressful event and most patients are concerned with pain management after the procedure. There are many different techniques and medications that are used to control postoperative pain, including intraoperative local and general anesthesia; but those only last a few hours after surgery. A peripheral nerve block is another option for longer lasting postoperative pain control for 1-2 days at best.

Not many patients associate pain relief when they hear the word catheter. However, there are new ways to heal and deliver pain management post-surgery with a nerve-blocking peripheral nerve catheter, also known as a continuous peripheral nerve block (cPNB).

Before jumping in, let’s look at the different types of pain management techniques and why this technique is beneficial for certain patients.

  • The most common route of pain relief is provided with oral medications. Both as prescribed and over-the-counter forms, these are usually taken every 4-6 hours and last for just as long.
  • Intravenous medications are given via injecting into a vein and help with pain but patients have to be in a monitored setting or facility.
  • Local anesthesia can be injected into the surgical incision before or during the procedure. This provides numbness or loss of sensation in the small area and usually lasts for up to 8 hours.
  • Regional blocks can reduce the pain post operatively but only offer control for up to 24-48 hours in most cases.
  • For those who need pain control for 24+ hours, a continuous peripheral nerve block can be used to continuously deliver pain medication directly to an affected area of the body.
  • If you receive a continuous catheter, most surgeons place the catheter before general anesthesia wears off. Not only does the catheter deliver targeted anesthetic medication, it also:

  • Significantly reduces postoperative pain
  • Decreases the necessity for pain medications
  • Eliminates most side effects commonly associated with oral pain medication, like nausea, vomiting, constipation and drowsiness
  • Provides a better environment to rest after surgery
  • Usually allows for easier participation in physical therapy, if needed, post procedure
  • While cPNBs are most commonly used to mitigate postoperative pain, research shows this may also be an option for patients who experience certain types of chronic pain on a daily basis. Individuals who suffer from cancer-induced pain, phantom limb syndrome, vascular or severe nerve damage from an injury could find pain relief, while minimizing oral pain medication.

    At Summa Health, our pain management specialists use a comprehensive, team-based approach to work closely with you to identify the cause of your pain and then develop an individualized treatment plan which might include injections, medical procedures, behavioral health, physical therapy or appropriate diet recommendations and education in addition to appropriate medications. The goal is not only to alleviate pain, but to keep you active and healthy.


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