TMC surgeons aim to curb opioid addiction

TUCSON, Ariz. - Doctor Stephanie Schluender is a colon and rectal surgeon at Tucson Medical Center.

Along with her partner she performs up to six surgeries per week with a new approach to opioids.

"So traditionally the idea was to give as many narcotics as patients need in order to have their pain controlled and then send them home with a large amount," Schluender said. "But obviously we've learned over time that this is not best for patients in the long haul."

In an effort to prevent opioid addiction, in 2015 Dr. Schluender says they implemented the pain management program. 

"So the program starts with educating the patient," Dr. Schluender said. "It includes minimally invasive techniques which is laparoscopy and now robotic surgery to perform 90% of our colon resections."

The plan also includes bringing in anesthesia and long-acting numbing medicines into the operating room, Dr. Schluender says. Then they use everything possible after surgery to make sure patients don't use opioids, instead muscle relaxants or even something as simple as Tylenol. 

"We want good outcomes for our patients. We want them to recover as quickly as possible and get back to their lives, whatever that is," Dr. Schluender said. "And studies have shown that major centers that do colon surgeries all have these programs and they're effective."

Since the program was implemented, Dr. Schluender says the second day after surgery only 55% of patients are using narcotics. 

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