A new study finds that when patients are injected with a combination of nerve blocks and long-acting local anesthetics into nerve branches around the abdomen before tummy tuck surgery, they have significantly less pain during their recovery period. A nerve block numbs the nerves in the area of the body where it’s injected.
The author, microvascular plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Lu-Jean Feng, reviewed charts of patients who underwent an abdominoplasty over a ten year period. The treatment group included 77 patients who received the numbing solution, which works by blocking pain impulses between the abdomen and brain. The control group included 20 patients who did not receive nerve blocks.
A comparison between the two groups found that those who received nerve blocks prior to surgery had significantly less pain after surgery, required significantly less pain medication during recovery, and spent less time in the recovery room.
Using recovery room data and patient questionnaires, the study also found that those who received nerve blocks had significantly less pain at home after surgery and were able to resume driving and other normal activities significantly sooner than the control group.
“Today prospective patients are not only looking at the aesthetic quality of results of an elective surgical procedure. They are also looking at ease of recovery and shorter downtimes,” said Dr. Feng, who presented her study at Plastic Surgery 2010, an annual scientific meeting sponsored by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons that was held October 1-5 in Toronto.
Based on the results, Dr. Feng or others may look into the possiblity of using the technique for other cosmetic procedures, like breast augmentation. Another possible use for nerve blocks may be for those recieving a combination of procedures at one time.
The abstract of the study, “Painless Abdominoplasty: The Efficacy of Combined Intercostal and Pararectus Blocks in Reducing Post-Op Pain and Recovery” is available at plasticsurgery.org.