Narcotic-Free, Over-the-Counter Pain Management After Wide-Awake Hand Surgery

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Introduction:Prescribing opioids for postoperative pain has increased steadily, and hand surgery has been no exception. Current hand surgery literature does not describe the efficacy of pain self-management postoperatively. The purpose of this study is to describe our experience with over-the-counter (OTC), narcotic-free, postoperative pain management.Methods:We have done a retrospective chart review at an academic tertiary-care facility. Patients who underwent soft-tissue hand surgery in an office-based procedure room between January 1, 2018, and March 1, 2019, done using wide-awake local anesthesia only with no tourniquet were included.Results:Eighty-one continuous patients met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The procedures included carpal tunnel release, cubital tunnel release, trigger finger release, first dorsal compartment release, dorsal wrist ganglion cyst excision, hand or finger mass excision, percutaneous needle fasciotomy, flexor tendon repair, and extensor tendon repair. Two patients (2.4%) received a prescription for pain medication within 1 day and 4 within 1 week after discharge (total 5.6%). Nine patients were already on chronic narcotics, and four were on short-term narcotics before the surgery date. No other patients requested or received opioid prescriptions after surgery, and no complaints were reported.Discussion:This study indicates that patients can successfully self-manage their postoperative pain with OTC analgesics. They rarely request prescriptions for pain control after soft-tissue hand surgery. Our findings support current literature suggesting that narcotic prescriptions can be eliminated in select hand and upper extremity procedures and suggest that OTC postoperative pain management is sufficient.

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