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Pain control is an important part of your care after your operation. Good pain control can ease your recovery. There are many ways to decrease pain after an operation. Pain medications can be given intravenously (through your IV), as an injection into your muscle, by mouth or infused into or near your spine. Some techniques used during an operation (such as epidural or spinal) also decrease post-procedure pain.

Patient Controlled Analgesia

The patient controlled analgesia (PCA) machine allows you to give your own pain medication. You will not have to call for your nurse when you have pain and want medication.

When you have pain, push the button and the machine will start. A small dose of pain medication will go into your IV. For your safety no one except you should push this button.

Give yourself only enough medicine to take care of your pain. You should not ask the machine for a dose if you start to feel sleepy. Try to balance the pain relief against sleepiness.

Shortly after you push the button, your pain should begin to decrease. If you have pushed the button several times and your pain is not decreasing, tell your nurse. Your nurse will work to determine the problem and solution.

Epidural Analgesia

An epidural is another way to control your pain after an operation. Your doctor or anesthesiologist will tell you if this is best for you. With an epidural, an anesthesiologist will place a tiny soft tube (epidural catheter) into your back. It is placed outside of the space where your spinal fluid is located. This soft tube is left in place after your operation and is used to control pain. Pain medication will be delivered through the soft tube (catheter) continuously by a pump. The medication goes to your spinal nerves to relieve pain. You can also push a button to receive additional doses of medication. After a few days, pain is often easily controlled with intravenous medication or pain pills, and your epidural catheter will be removed.

While you have an epidural:

  • You will have a tube draining your urine (Foley catheter).
  • Your nurse will check on you frequently.
  • You may have oxygen.
  • You must have help to walk. Please do not get out of bed without help from your nurse.
  • Let your nurse know if you have pain, nausea or itching. Medications are available to treat these symptoms.
  • Let your nurse know if you have weakness or numbness in your legs or if you feel light-headed or dizzy.

Spinal Analgesia

Although a spinal can be performed as the total anesthetic for an operation, it can also be used for pain control afterward. When a spinal is performed, medication is placed with a single injection into the space where your spinal fluid is located. Typically one dose of medication lasts 12 to 20 hours.

Rating Your Pain

Whatever methods are used to control your pain, the nursing staff will ask you about your pain. You may be asked to describe your pain using a pain scale. This may be done in a number of ways including rating your pain from zero to ten.