Healthwatch: Patch vs. IV

Patients who undergo surgery now have an option of a "pain patch" during their recovery time, rather than the traditional intravenous (IV) pump.

The method is good, but the IV system involves needles, tubes and sometimes malfunctioning machines.

"The concept is good. It is just a little old and cumbersome," said Dr. Gene Viscusi of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa.

He and several colleagues at the Thomas Jefferson University tested the IV patient controlled analgesia (PCA) against a new credit card looking device that is placed on the upper arm to administer pain medication through the skin. The results of the study are published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The findings of the study showed that the new device, E-Trans Fentanyl PCTS, compared favorably with the traditional IV-PCA," said Viscusi. "Head to head, they looked almost identical."

Thomas Reed took part in the study. After prostate surgery three years ago, Reed was given the pain "patch".

"There's no pain involved. You only hit a little button and it administers your medication. There was no discomfort, no nothing involved in it. It was as simple as one, two, three," Reed said.

"It is able to deliver a potent pain reliever through the skin with a very, very tiny electric current at the demand of the patient," said Viscusi.

Both types of pain systems keep post-operative patients pain free, but the "patch" device allows patients more mobility in their recovery and demands less time from the nursing staff.

Read all previous WTOK Healthwatch articles here.

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