Cleveland, OH,
09:59 AM

MetroHealth Researchers Explore Alternatives to Opioids Following Thyroid, Parathyroid Surgeries

CLEVELAND – In most cases, pain resulting from thyroid and parathyroid surgery can be treated without opioid medication, lessening the risk of overdose or other misuse of the powerful narcotics, according to a new study from MetroHealth researchers.

Dr. Christopher McHenry and his research team set out to determine whether patients undergoing thyroidectomies and parathyroidectomies have similar pain levels following surgery if managed with opioids versus a regimen that didn’t include opioids.

“With all of the problems related to the opioid epidemic – addiction and overdose, and opioids being used by people other than the patient – we asked whether narcotics are really necessary for our patients,” said Dr. McHenry, vice chairman of MetroHealth’s Department of Surgery, director of the Division of General Surgery and professor of surgery at Case Western Reserve University.

Their findings were recently published online in Surgery, the journal of the Society of University Surgeons, Central Surgical Association, and the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. Dr. McHenry’s research group included Justin T. Brady, MD; Angelina Dreimiller, PA-C; Suzanne Miller-Spalding, RN, MSN; Tiffany Gesang, MD; and Ashwini R. Sehgal, MD.

Dr. McHenry and his team compared pain scores for two groups of patients following thyroidectomy and parathyroidectomy procedures – one whose pain management regimen included opioids and another that didn’t. Researchers found no difference in median pain scores.

The non-narcotic pain management group received acetaminophen, ibuprofen, ice packs and throat lozenges while the narcotic group received the same medications plus 10 oxycodone pills.

The study’s findings have changed MetroHealth’s pain management protocol following thyroidectomy and parathyroidectomy procedures. Since November, MetroHealth has sent patients home with acetaminophen, ibuprofen and throat lozenges. If pain isn’t controlled with the non-narcotic regimen, they are prescribed three narcotic tablets. Prior to the research, they would have been prescribed about 10 tablets.

Over the last few years, MetroHealth has been committed to providing its patients with effective alternatives to addictive opioid medication. Over the last 20 months, for example, MetroHealth prescribed almost 4 million fewer opioid pills.

“This study adds to the growing body of research showing that post- operative pain can be successfully treated without exposing patients to the significant risks of sedation, overdose and addiction caused by opioid analgesics,” said Joan Papp, MD, medical director of MetroHealth’s Office of Opioid Safety.

About the MetroHealth System

The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.

The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.

As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.

Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.

The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.

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