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Common pain drugs may cut the need for narcotics after joint surgery

March 08, 2004|Jane E. Allen

Patients recovering from knee- or hip-replacement surgery feel less pain, recuperate faster and need fewer narcotics when given a combination of common pain-relief pills.

Orthopedic surgery patients who are given narcotic pain relievers often suffer from fuzzy thinking and difficulty breathing, which can delay their rehabilitation, report researchers at UC Irvine.

In a study of 102 patients, 40 received an around-the-clock regimen of acetaminophen (Tylenol), the prescription anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, and tramadol (Ultram), a drug that blocks part of the brain's response to pain. Each of the drugs works differently. In the first 24 hours after surgery, the patients also got a local anesthetic, another anti-inflammatory (dexamethasone) and morphine. The other 62 patients received drugs at their doctors' discretion.

Dr. Harry B. Skinner, an orthopedist at UCI's College of Medicine, reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Orthopedics that patients receiving the combination therapy felt less pain two days after surgery and at the time of their hospital discharge. In the 48 hours after surgery, they also used narcotics three times less often than the comparison group.

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Jane E. Allen

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