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Archive February 2018 XIX, No. 2

Sending Patients Home With Pain Pumps

Peripheral nerve catheters are your secret weapon in the quest for prolonged post-surgical pain control.

Jim Burger

Jim Burger, Senior Editor


Pain Pump
TAKE-HOME TEST Surgery center nurse Emily Winchester, RN, reviews pain pump instructions with her patient.

Patients who are given regional nerve blocks wake up faster, are more alert and have less pain. They need fewer opioids, so they're less likely to have respiratory distress or nausea. Which means they can usually be discharged sooner and start physical therapy sooner. The only problem? Blocks wear off.

That's where continuous peripheral nerve catheters and pain pumps can take over. Yes, continuous nerve blocks add a whole new level of complexity for patients, but they can control and dramatically reduce post-surgical pain for several days. When you send patients home with a pump and a little education, they're usually able to get through the toughest post-surgical stretch without relying heavily on opioids. And by recovering comfortably at home, they reduce the burden on providers and the healthcare system in general.

"For those interested in making outpatient surgery as affordable and feasible as possible, the role for peripheral nerve catheters is a significant one," says Christopher Canlas, MD, an assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology in the division of ambulatory anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. "They play an important role in reducing hospital days and increasing patient comfort."

There are a wide variety of block and pump features to consider. Here are the factors you should weigh to choose the best options for your facility.

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