New technique lowers pain for knee surgery patients at IU Health

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By Chris Bavender

Imelda Brewer has had two knee replacements. The surgery on her left knee in 2012 while living in Florida resulted in extreme pain and about a year’s recovery time. But it was a far different experience in 2018 when she had her right knee replaced at IU Health Saxony in Fishers.

Dr. Michael Meneghini and Imelda Brewer. (Submitted photo)

This time, a new technique that helps reduce post-surgery pain and less use of post-surgery opioids, made all the difference.

“With this last one it was about five months for full recovery,” Brewer said. “The first one was very painful, but with the second one, I got along much better. It was quite different.”

The technique was researched by doctors at IU Health Saxony Fishers and the IU School of Medicine and led by Dr. Michael Meneghini, who performed Brewer’s surgery. Typically in knee replacement surgery, tourniquets are used to reduce blood flow in the area to make it easier to see and to keep the bone clean for cement implants. But research showed using sterile carbon dioxide gas to clean the bone not only reduced pain but decreased the use of opioids.

“The opioid crisis is real and affecting our country. We are always looking for anything to minimize risk and minimize use of opioids,” Meneghini said. “We have had people bringing back (pain) prescriptions routinely because they are doing better than they had done previously.”

Brewer can attest to that. She used prescription pain medication for the first few weeks but gradually reduced her use.

“I just kept reducing and reducing. I just had the strong mindset that I would be back to my active lifestyle,” she said. “I felt I could manage much better and this time I could shower immediately and daily and that helped a lot. I feel like I never had surgery. I feel so much better.”

Approximately 500 patients have had the new technique since Jan. 1, 2018.

“All have responded well to it and we have definitely noticed many of the problems attributed to the tourniquet use post-op have been eliminated,” Meneghini said. “We have had a lot of good feedback.”

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