The use of pain pumps has become a common practice in plastic surgery recovery such as tummy tuck and breast surgery. These are balloon-like devices attached to a catheter to deliver pain medications directly to the incision site, making it possible for patients to be less reliant to oral pain drugs that are associated with more side effects such as constipation, stomach upset, and nausea.
Because the drugs do not circulate throughout the body, pain pumps are said to result in fewer or more tolerable side effects.
Oftentimes, the contents of pain pumps last for three to four days when postop discomfort is at its peak. After this period, most patients no longer need strong pain medications such as narcotics that could lead to constipation if used over a long period of time.
Studies have suggested that most patients find these pain pumps simple to use and not cumbersome.
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smaili says pain pumps are particularly helpful in managing discomfort after breast surgical enhancement, such as mastopexy, augmentation, reduction, and post-mastectomy reconstruction, citing studies have shown that their use lead to shorter hospital stay.
Most pain pumps contain bupivacaine, an agent when used continuously during the initial healing phase could prevent long-term chronic pain syndrome, as suggested by medical reports.
Pain pumps also have low systemic toxicity and reduced incidence of complications because they work directly on the surgical site, explains Dr. Smaili.
This pain control system is also popularly used after tummy tuck in which a hip-to-hip incision is often used to contour the mid section. Compared to other plastic surgeries, the procedure leads to more postop discomfort, which mostly come from muscle repair or tightening.
During tummy tuck surgery, the abdominal muscle is tightened and reshaped using internal sutures. Because of the resulting discomfort, within the first few days patients are generally advised to sleep, sit, and walk in a way that they are slightly flexed at the waist.
While pain pumps do not completely eliminate the postop pain, they decrease the amount of discomfort to a significant degree that they become a common part of pain management treatment during plastic surgery recovery.
The renowned Beverly Hills plastic surgeon says that in the future, scientists could find ways to design pain pumps that can directly deliver numbing medications to all the nerves in the surgical site, making the healing process virtually painless.