Breast surgery can be painful and result in nausea and vomiting after anesthesia.  New anesthetic options for breast cancer patients undergoing surgery can significantly reduce postoperative nausea, vomiting and pain.

Women who have a mastectomy routinely undergo general anesthesia. To decrease both pain after surgery and the incidence of nausea and vomiting, one option is the placement of an epidural prior to general anesthesia. The epidural catheter is placed into the patient’s back by a trained anesthesiologist and delivers an anesthetic that numbs the patient’s chest area. The catheter can remain in place for one to two days after the surgery, thereby decreasing postoperative discomfort and also decreasing the amount of pain medicine necessary, thereby causing less nausea and vomiting.

Another anesthetic option in addition to general anesthesia includes a paravertebral nerve block. A well-trained anesthesiologist injects numbing medicine into the patient’s back prior to undergoing general anesthesia. The numbing medicine lasts up to eight hours after the surgery. As with epidural anesthesia, patients have been found to have decreased pain, nausea, and vomiting after the surgery, as well as shortened hospital stays.

For patients undergoing breast biopsies and lumpectomies, intravenous sedation or “twilight sleep” is routinely employed.  In addition to “twilight sleep,” a long-acting local anesthetic can be injected by the surgeon at the time of surgery, which numbs the surgical area for up to eight hours, thereby decreasing postoperative pain.

The use of additional anesthetic options have decreased the incidence of postoperative pain, nausea, and vomiting after surgery. This in turn decreases the amount of time patients need to stay in the recovery room and ultimately in the hospital.  Breast surgery is already anxiety-provoking and psychologically traumatic; why not help decrease the amount of physical pain associated with these procedures?

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