Healthwatch

New post-surgical pain medication for children

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Few things are scarier for kids and their parents than surgery. Many parents worry about the pain their child will face following the procedure. Now a new type of anesthesia is proving to be a real game changer in the operating room.  

Jessica Garcia was born with a hole in her heart. 

Garcia says, "When I was born they told my parents that I probably wouldn't make it a week, or a month or anything." 

At age 13, Garcia needed surgery to repair the VSD or ventricular septal defect. 

Garcia adds, "I was down for it, I was totally cool about it." 

Dr. Kristine Guleserian, Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgeon, Nicklaus Children's Hospital says, "We're actually seeing an increasing number of children, not only neonates and infants, toddlers and children, adolescents who require open heart surgery." 

Dr. Guleserian says most parents have the same concern. 

Now doctors have a new weapon in the fight against post-surgical pain in children. It's called Exparel.

Dr. Guleserian explains, "It's a local analgesic that we can inject in and around the incision after we have completed the open heart procedure." 

The medication then slowly releases over three days. Surgeons are calling Exparel a real game changer.  

Dr. Christopher Tirotta, Director of Cardiac Anesthesia, Nicklaus Children's Hospital says, "It will reduce the need for supplemental analgesics, particularly opioid analgesics."

Garcia was the first patient at Nicklaus Children's Hospital to receive Exparel after her heart surgery. 

Garcia says, "That day I wanted to run, walk, do everything, I told my parents can I get up from the bed, I'm tired of the bed." 

With the operation behind her, Garcia is back to being a busy teenager. 

She adds, "It's unreal to me how easy I got out of this and how thankful I am." 

Already FDA approved for adults, Exparel is being used "off-label" for kids now if over 12 since it is not FDA approved for children. 

Doctors say they hope this will soon become the gold standard in post-operative pain control for children nationwide.     


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