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Pain Relief after Surgery

This page will provide you with information about pain relief after surgery. For further details, you should speak to your consultant.

What are the benefits of having pain relief?

After undergoing surgery, it is not uncommon for patients to be in pain. In the majority of cases, pain relief is offered to patients to make them more comfortable. Pain relief has numerous benefits, and when taken after surgery it can help to reduce the chance of blood clots, chest infections and heart attacks, and help you to return to your normal activities as quickly as possible.

1. Simple painkillers

It is possible to take simple painkillers either on their own or with other painkillers. Post-operation, you can take painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory), tramadol and codeine. While these simple painkillers may not get rid of the pain entirely, it could lower the amount of additional painkillers you may need in the long run.

Complications

There are few risks associated with simple painkillers. Paracetamol, for instance, is very safe, so long as you ensure that you are taking the correct dosage. If you are suffering from asthma, sometimes anti-inflammatory painkillers can make your symptoms worse, and they can also cause upset stomachs. Painkillers such as codeine can make patients feel a sick and dizzy. They could also make your skin feel itchy and make you constipated.

2. Morphine and similar painkillers

If your pain is severe following your procedure then you may be offered morphine or similar painkillers including diamorphine, oxycodone or pethidine.

Intravenous delivery (drip)

Intravenous delivery is when painkillers are pumped into the patients using a drip, which is inserted into the vein. The most popular intravenous delivery technique is patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), where patients can press a button to release a small dosage of painkillers.

Alternative methods for giving morphine and similar painkillers

Painkillers can be taken orally once the patient can eat and drink normally. They can also be injected beneath the skin or into a muscle.

Risks and complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.

3. Epidural anaesthetic

For an epidural anaesthetic, a slim tube (catheter) is inserted into the epidural area, which is where the majority of nerves pass and is near the spinal cord. Local anaesthetic, along with painkillers, pass through the tube and into the epidural area which numbs the nerves. In some cases, medication will be delivered to the patient continuously (infusion) with the health care team controlling the levels. Alternatively, you may be give a button which will allow you to safely top up your dosage as and when you feel you need more pain relief.

4. Peripheral nerve block

If you have had an operation on your arm or leg, you may be offered a peripheral nerve block. This medical process involves injecting anaesthetic along with other painkillers near the major leg or arm nerves in order to numb them temporarily.

Complications

  • Not fully blocking the nerve
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • An allergic reaction to the medication
  • Local anaesthetic toxicity

Summary

After undergoing surgery, it is highly likely that you will experience some degree of pain or discomfort. In the majority of cases, pain relief is a safe and effective way of easing pain following your procedure.

 

References: EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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