AKRON, Ohio - Steve Milton loves doting on his garden and his dog, but chronic, searing pain in his digestive tract almost kept him from doing either.
"I had a real difficult five months prior to my operation," Milton explained.
After three emergency room visits, one hospitalization, and never-ending infections, doctors put Milton on antibiotics for diverticulitis.
"They tried a variety of drugs," he said. "Actually, had bad reactions to one of the drugs and was hospitalized."
Surgery was next, with a new way to handle Milton's pain afterwards.
"It prevents patients from developing post-operative pain," said Dr. Mark Horattas, the chair of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Akron General. "It accelerates their recovery so they're in bed less and getting less post-operative complications."
A combination of pain blockers and local anesthetics are placed right next to the incision before surgery, and they last up to three days after the operation, which reduces the need for opioids.
"Opioids were associated with problems with delayed bowel function," Horattas said.
The new approach cut the days in the hospital by more than half, and the use of morphine by 80%.
"They feel better. They're happier, and they have less pain," Horattas said.
Milton was up and walking around four hours after his surgery. He went home in two days, and he was back at work Monday, taking only Tylenol.
"I'm a new man from what was a real potential life-threatening situation," smiled Milton.
According to Horattas, the recovery protocol can be used on all abdominal surgery patients and is being expanded to those going through breast surgery. He hopes to get the protocol approved for all surgeries that require the use of opioids.
Horattas said to talk to your doctor and anesthesiologist about how to manage your pain and prevent it. This is a very serious problem, because nearly 30% of patients prescribed opioids for pain misuse them.