MIAMI (KFSN) -- Being told your child needs open heart surgery is frightening enough. A major concern is the pain after the procedure. Now a new type of anesthesia is proving to be a real game-changer in the operating room.
Jessica Garcia was born with a hole in her heart.
"When I was born they told my parents that I probably wouldn't make it a week, or a month or anything," said Garcia, a heart surgery patient.
At age 13, Jessica needed surgery to repair the VSD or ventricular septal defect.
"I was down for it. I was totally cool about it." Garcia stated.
Kristine Guleserian, MD, a Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgeon at Nicklaus Children's Hospital said, "We're actually seeing an increasing number of children, not only neonates and infants, toddlers and children, adolescents who require open heart surgery."
Dr. Guleserian says most parents have the same concern: "Is my child going to be ok, are they going to be in pain after surgery?"
Now doctors have a new weapon in the fight against post-surgical pain in children: it's called Exparel.
"It's a local analgesic that we can inject in and around the incision after we have completed the open heart procedure." Doctor Guleserian explained.
The medication then slowly releases over three days. Surgeons are calling Exparel a real game changer.
Christopher Tirotta, MD, Director of Cardiac Anesthesia at Nicklaus Children's Hospital said, "It will reduce the need for supplemental analgesics, particularly opioid analgesics."
Jessica was the first patient at Nicklaus children's hospital to receive Exparel after her heart surgery. The next day she woke up smiling!
"That day I wanted to run, walk, do everything, I told my parents can I get up from the bed, I'm tired of the bed," Garcia said.
With the operation behind her, Garcia is back to being a busy teenager; "It's unreal to me how easy I got out of this and how thankful I am."
Already FDA approved for adults, Exparel is being used "off-label" for kids now if over 12 since it is not FDA approved for children. Doctors say they hope this will soon become the gold standard in post-operative pain control for children nationwide.
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Exparel: Helping patients heal pain free
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