Ice packs, commonly used to help alleviate pain after minor surgeries, are an effective means of treating pain after major surgeries, too, says a recent study.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., recruited 55 patients scheduled for major abdominal surgery. They had 27 of them wear ice packs over their wounds for 24 hours after surgery — and longer if they chose to — in addition to taking pain medication.
One hour after surgery and at all points measured over the next 3 days, the group treated with ice reported significantly lower pain scores. Patients treated with ice also used significantly less morphine than the non-ice group on days 1 and 3, and about the same amount on Day 2.
On the morning after surgery, for example, the ice group rated their pain a 3, on a scale of 0 to 10; the non-ice group rated theirs a 5. On Day 1 after surgery, the ice group used 14 morphine equivalents' worth of pain medication, compared with 17 in the non-ice group. On Day 3, the ice group used 11, the non-ice group 15.
The researchers point out that at about $2 per pack, ice has the potential to be a very cost-effective complement for treating pain. Their findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.