Dr. Zarina Ali creates program to reduce opioid use post-spine surgery

Alan Condon -   Print  |
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Neurosurgeon Zarina Ali, MD, of Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine has developed a program that helps decrease opioid use and length of stay after elective spine and peripheral nerve surgery.

Recently published in Pain Medicine, the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery program was shown to reduce pain medications for patients at one, three and six months after surgery.

"Patients following the ERAS protocol reported less opioid use without higher pain scores," Dr. Ali said. "This represents an important advance in the context of the current nationwide opioid epidemic."

The ERAS program connects with patients before, during and after surgery to help prevent opioid addiction. The system includes patient education, nutrition information, early mobilization and recovery plans.

The study enrolled 1,141 patients in the ERAS program and measured their opioid use with 149 controls who received the standard of care. 

At one month postop, 38.6 percent of the ERAS cohort needed pain medications, compared to 70.5 percent of the control group. Only 23.6 percent of the ERAS group needed pain medications six months after surgery, compared to 51.9 percent in the control group.

The ERAS group also had shorter hospital stays.

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