Do Ice Packs Reduce Postoperative Midline Incision Pain, NSAID or Narcotic Use?
Adequate postoperative analgesia, especially after major abdominal surgery is important for recovery, early mobility, and patient satisfaction. We aimed to study the effects of cryotherapy via an ice pack in the immediate postoperative period, for patients undergoing major abdominal operations.
This prospective study was conducted at our tertiary care referral center in a low–middle-income country setting. The preoperative patient characteristics, intra-operative variables, and postoperative outcomes were compared between two sets of patients. Cryotherapy was delivered via frozen gel packs for 24 h immediately following laparotomy. Pain relief was assessed with visual analog pain scores (VAS). Comparisons between groups were measured by Chi-square test, Fischer’s exact test, or Mann–Whitney U test as appropriate.
Sixty-eight patients were included in the study: 33 in the cryotherapy group and 35 in the non-cryotherapy group. Mean postoperative pain scores (VAS) were significantly lower in the cryotherapy group versus the control group (3.97 ± 0.6 vs. 4.9 ± 0.7 on postoperative day (POD) 1; p < 0.001, and 3 ± 0.5 vs. 09 ± 0.8 on POD2; p < 0.001). The median narcotic use in morphine equivalents was lesser in the cryotherapy group from POD 1–3 (66 (IQR-16) vs. 89 (IQR-17); p = 0.001). No significant difference was seen in the NSAID use between the groups. The cryotherapy group was also found to have a lesser incidence of surgical site infection (p = 0.03) and better lung function based on incentive spirometry (p = 0.01) and demonstrated earlier functional recovery based on their ability to perform the sit-to-stand test (p = 0.001).
Ice packs are a simple, cost-effective adjuvant to standard postoperative pain management which reduce pain and narcotic use and promote early rehabilitation.
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