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Restoring pain-free independence without the need for opioids: First Awake Spinal Fusion in New England.

With his colleagues from Hartford Healthcare and their 82-year-old spinal surgery patient, IAA Anesthesiologist Vlad Frenk, MD, shared the team’s accomplishments and celebrated the success of the First Awake Spinal Fusion in New England.

82-year-old Edith Gooch suffered for years from a debilitating spine disability that caused daily pain and reduced her independence. On Oct. 1, 2021, IAA Anesthesiologist Dr. Vlad Frenk and Hartford Healthcare’s Dr. Yanamadala performed the first “Awake Spinal Fusion” in New England at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, restoring Ms. Gooch’s mobility and independence, without the or need for opioids.

“We want to make sure that people understand that they will not be completely awake during surgery,” says Dr. Frenk. “We do an infusion of light sedatives, similar to what people have with colonoscopy and endoscopy, keeping them comfortable, yet, avoiding general anesthesia.”

The team then administers spinal anesthesia into the back. According to Dr. Frenk, this procedure is very safe. In fact, it’s the preferred way to administer anesthesia for total hip replacement, total joint replacements, caesarian section and it’s used widely for other surgeries as well.

He goes on to say, “After we administer the sedative, our anesthesia team will perform a cutting-edge nerve block procedure called an erector spine block, which is an injection of numbing medication, similar to Novocain. The medication that we use lasts up to 36 hours, and it allows our patients to decrease, or completely abolish the need for strong opioids for the first day and a half or so after surgery.”

As Dr. Frenk explains, “This procedure is done after patients are sedated, so it’s comfortable, and they don’t feel any discomfort. And it’s done under guidance where we target the nerve. We have a special group of people with advanced training in regional anesthesia that are dedicated to spine and spinal surgery. We have performed over a thousand of these blocks since 2000, without any complication. It’s basically revolutionized and changed the way that we take care of our patients in New England, and St. Vincent’s Medical Center in particular.”

IAA’s anesthesiology team recently presented three papers at a prestigious Anesthesia meeting (ASA in San Diego) discussing their findings and sharing it with other practitioners around the country. It’s an exciting time, and the team feels fortunate to have the support of the surgeons, the hospitals and the Hartford Healthcare system.

The advantages to this spinal procedure are numerous, including faster recovery. You wake up right after surgery and can expect to eat and drink in the recovery room – most times, within an hour of the completion of the operation. Because the need for strong opioids is avoided during the first several days of recovery, the team is able to significantly decrease opioid-related side effects such as confusion, nausea, and constipation. These side effects are particularly worse in elderly patients. Awake spinal surgery can increase surgical patients’ rate of recovery while avoiding risks, and Hartford Healthcare is proud to offer this solution at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

Congratulation to IAA’s Fairfield Division Regional Anesthesia Team for their incredible work and dedication to excellence.

Meet the team at the upcoming PGA75 in NYC this December to learn more and ask questions.

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Restoring pain-free independence without the need for opioids: First Awake Spinal Fusion in New England.

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