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Cryotherapy after surgery may reduce narcotic use

Cryotherapy in patients who have undergone open abdominal surgeries may help to reduce the use of narcotic painkillers during recovery, a recent study suggests.

Viraj A. Master, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S., of Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, conducted a study that compared the effect of cryotherapy on postoperative pain. He and colleagues used soft ice packs on the incision areas of 27 patients following open abdominal operations, while 28 control patients were not given the ice packs, according to a news release.

Patients who received cryotherapy placed ice packs on their wounds as needed for at least 24 hours. They were also given the option of a prescription opioid. Those in the control group received only opioids for pain relief.

Patients receiving ice packs reported 50 percent less pain, on average, on the first and third days following surgery compared to the opioid-only group, researchers noted. Patients receiving cryotherapy also used about 22.5 percent less opiod pain relievers than did the controls on the first postop day. Some patients using the ice packs used no prescription painkillers, researchers noted.

“An ice pack is safe and inexpensive and gives the patient a sense of empowerment because it is self-care, and doesn’t require high-tech devices,” Dr. Master said in the news release.

The study results were discussed at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Washington.

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