Nerve stimulation reduces pain and opioid use after orthopedic surgery, study finds

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Nerve stimulation treatments reduce the need for opioids for post-surgical pain, according to a new study. Photo by skeeze/Pixabay

April 15 (UPI) — Nerve stimulation treatments are effective in reducing pain in patients recovering from orthopedic surgery and limit the need for potentially addictive opioid drugs, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Anesthesiology find.

A treatment called percutaneous peripheral nerve stimulation reduced patients’ postoperative pain scores by an average of 50% after common procedures, the data shows.

The treatment delivers small amounts of electricity to surgically affected nerves and interrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain, the researchers said.

Additionally, the patients’ use of opioid painkillers dropped by 80% in the first week after the treatments, according to the researchers, who called the results “impressive”.

The benefits of postoperative nerve stimulation were “much greater than we anticipated,” wrote researchers from the University of California, San Diego.

The results “stand on their own and indicate that percutaneous peripheral nerve stimulation is very effective for acute pain,” they said.

Reducing the need for opioid painkillers after surgical procedures has become a focus of attention in recent years due to the risk of patients becoming dependent on these drugs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription opioid painkillers have helped fuel an “epidemic” of abuse and misuse of these drugs, which have intoxicating effects similar to those of illegal drugs such as “l ‘heroin”.

For this study, the researchers recruited 65 adults who underwent common joint surgery on an outpatient basis, such as bunion removal and shoulder rotator cuff repair.

All of the study participants had electrical leads placed near the nerve(s) that serve the surgical joints, with half of them receiving active electrical stimulation adjusted to achieve the desired sensory change sometimes described as a “pleasant massage” sensation. “, said the researchers.

The other participants received an inactive treatment, with a pulse generator that seemed to work normally, but delivered no electrical current, the researchers said.

After one week, participants who received active percutaneous peripheral nerve stimulation showed significantly lower pain ratings, with mean scores on a zero to 10 scale of around 1, compared to just over 3 in the group sham treatment, depending on the data.

Participants in the active treatment group used, on average, about 5 milligrams of opioid painkillers in the first week after surgery, about one-tenth the amount used by those in the sham treatment group, the researchers said. .

“Percutaneous peripheral nerve stimulation will most likely prove the optimal management after painful surgical procedures,” they wrote.

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