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'Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery' posts

What should you know about pain killers after surgery?

Recovering from major surgery is an active process that typically takes 6 weeks. Surgical pain is normal and expected, but the pain experience may be different for individuals. Since pain can interfere with your ability to participate in activities to prevent complications (coughing, deep breathing, walking), treating pain is critically important for a successful surgical recovery. Many patients are afraid to take prescription narcotics or “pain killers” because they do not want to become “addicted.” However, untreated pain can lead to the development of permanent pain pathways to the brain, which can delay your recovery and possibly even result in chronic pain.

Narcotic use varies among individuals and there is a big difference between drug dependence and addiction. Dependence is when the body has become accustomed to the medication. This can occur anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks after you start taking pain killers regularly, like after surgery. Addiction, however, generally implies that the medication or substance is interfering with your life in some way. You can become dependent on pain killers during your surgical recovery, but with medical management of your withdrawal from these medications, you will avoid addiction. It is important to use your prescription pain killers as directed to avoid overuse. On the other hand, you do not want to avoid using pain killers when you need them to remain comfortable and active. Stopping your pain killers “cold turkey” can be dangerous and it may cause considerable discomfort. The surgical team will work with you to develop a plan to wean you off your pain killers gradually and safely, at a time when you are ready.

The universal goal is to taper as quickly as your physical, mental and emotional status allows. Since there is ....

Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Patient Featured in Fortune Magazine Article on Robotic-Assisted Surgery

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SEATTLE, Jan. 22, 2013 - Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute cardiothoracic surgeon Eric Lehr, M.D., and one of his patients were interviewed for an article on robotic-assisted surgery that appears in the Feb. 11 issue of Fortune magazine.

Fixing Chest Wall Deformities: A Minimally Invasive Option

Pectus excavatum often referred to as either "sunken" or "funnel" chest is the most common congenital chest wall deformity affecting up to one in a thousand children. It results from excessive growth of the cartilage between the ribs and the breast bone (sternum) leading to a sunken (concave) appearance of the chest.

(Image source)

Although present at birth, this usually becomes much more obvious after a child undergoes a growth spurt in their early teens. Pectus excavatum can range from mild to quite severe with the moderate to severe cases involving compression of the heart and lungs. It may not cause any symptoms, however, children with pectus excavatum often report exercise intolerance (shortness of breath or tiring before peers in sports), chest pain, heart problems, and body image difficulties. The last issue deserves some attention as children often are reluctant to discuss how the appearance of their chest affects their self-esteem globally. There is a bias even within the medical community to dismiss the appearance component of pectus excavatum as merely "cosmetic", but I view the surgery to fix this congenital defect as corrective and support the idea that the impact of its appearance should be considered. I have seen patients emotionally transformed in ways that they and their families never expected.

Thanks in great part to the pioneering work of Dr. Donald Nuss (a now retired pediatric surgeon in Virginia), we have a well-proven minimally invasive option to correct pectus excavatum: the Nuss bar procedure. This involves ...

Pain after surgery

If you are scheduled to have surgery, it is normal to be concerned about pain you may experience after surgery.

The best time to talk about post-surgical pain is actually before your operation. Make sure you:

  • Talk to your surgeon about your experience with different methods of pain control.
  • Bring a current list of all your medicines and any drug allergies with you to your appointment.
  • Be honest about your alcohol and drug use. If you are abusing alcohol or drugs, you may experience withdrawal from these substances making your postoperative recovery difficult. If you are a recovering from alcohol or drug abuse we can design a pain management plan to reduce the chance for relapse.
  • Ask questions about the post-surgical pain: the severity, how long it will last, how it will be treated, what medications will be used, how they work, and their possible side effects.
  • Discuss any concerns you have about taking pain medications.

Surgical pain is common and should be expected after your procedure. Luckily, modern pain medications and anesthesia can minimize surgical pain. While we cannot eliminate all pain, we want to make you as comfortable as possible. Our pain management goals are simple:

A new treatment for GERD: The LINX - Reflux Management System

Acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion are all forms of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. This common problem afflicts over 20 million people in the United States on a daily basis. As a surgeon who treats patients with some of the most severe symptoms of GERD, I was recently struck by the fact that very little has changed in the treatment of the debilitating problem over the last several decades.

Medications have always been the primary treatment for patients with GERD. TUMS, Rolaids, alka seltzer are easy over the counter remedies that could provide instant but only short-term relief. More potent medications called H2 receptor antagonists (commonly known as Zantac, Pepcid AC) brought about longer lasting relief. These medications were great but many patients experienced a relapse of symptoms.

The newest medications for GERD...

Pectus excavatum – it looks like the chest is sinking inward

Have you ever noticed someone whose chest sinks inward in the front, kind of like a funnel? The first time I ever noticed this bony malformation was when I was in high school, and a friend of mine on the soccer team had one. It was called “pectus excavatum,” he told me.

In my thoracic surgery training, I was often called upon to evaluate patients with this chest wall abnormality. As a result, I began to delve deeper into some of the issues that may affect people with this type of defect.

Pectus excavatum is the most common chest wall deformity and results from abnormal development of the sternum and its attachments. Most patients are self conscious about the defect and usually focus on its appearance but because this is usually present for much of a person’s life, symptoms associated with it may not be totally obvious. Individuals affected generally get used to how they feel and try to overcome any limitations to the best of their abilities without even knowing that’s what they are doing. Most patients describe some chest discomfort, shortness of breath when exerting themselves, lack of endurance, or feeling embarrassed in social situations when their shirt is off. It is not uncommon to hear patients say that they have trouble keeping up with their friends during activities, or that they avoid any activities that would require them to take off their shirt in public-such as going to a pool.

Most physicians aren’t even aware that there is an effective treatment for pectus excavatum...

Swedish Robotic-Assisted Surgical Program Grows, Continues to Gain Momentum

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