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Addressing the opioid crisis

Managing our patients' pain after spine surgery is something we at Twin Cities Spine Center have long been doing for decades. Opioids, like oxycodone, have great usefulness for decreasing postoperative pain and are often the drugs of choice for pain management. However, these drugs are also associated with problems like nausea and vomiting, itching, dizziness, drowsiness, and constipation. There are additional severe risks such as sedation, slowed respirations, low heartbeat, low blood pressure, and death. Long term harmful effects may include drug addiction, heightened tolerance to narcotics and increased sensitivity to pain. The adverse effects of these drugs have been shown to increase lengths of hospitalization, costs of care, and rates of mortality. Furthermore, narcotic misuse and abuse can lead to family disruption, poor productivity and lost work.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, deaths related to drug overdoses among Minnesota residents increased by 9% from 2016 to 2017. Caregivers at Twin Cities Spine Center are taking action to do what we can to reverse this alarming trend. Preoperatively, we have our patients attend a patient education class which includes teaching on narcotics and pain control post-surgery. In addition, our providers have reduced the amounts of narcotics. Compared to December 2017, discharge prescriptions for opioids were reduced 45% by the end of 2018. Over the same period, patients' satisfaction levels increased by 5%. Their quality of care (measured by fewer readmissions to the hospital) increased by 188%.

Reducing the amounts of opioids prescribed will help ease the opioid crisis. Twin Cities Spine Center's doctors are also looking at alternatives to narcotics that may help reduce the need for postoperative pain management. One such alternative is a drug called liposomal bupivacaine which is injected at the surgical site at the time of surgery and provides an extended numbing effect. We are conducting a clinical trial to find out if it reduces pain and the need for painkillers after surgery, subsequently shortening the length of hospitalization and reducing costs. More information about the study may be found at

Twin Cities Spine Center's providers are committed to preventing opioid dependency without sacrificing patient care and satisfaction. We will continue to work with our patients to ensure that their postoperative pain management is effective and safe.

Decreased narcotics, increased patient satisfaction and fewer readmissions chart for 2018

Data collected by Allina Health and Twin Cities Spine Center

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