Baptist hospital program aims to alleviate opioid problem

Method reduces need of hospital stay by 30 percent

By Tiffany Huertas - Video Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - A local hospital hopes to alleviate the opioid problem by limiting the number of pain medications patients need before and after surgery through a program called Enhanced Recovery After Surgery. 

"Wer are looking at some nutritional manipulations to help maintain proper sugar levels in the blood. Early physical therapy, early ambulation, all of these things to improve patient outcome by minimizing the amount of time they're in the hospital through minimizing pain, early return of function of the intestinal tract,” Dr. Morton Kahlenberg, medical director of the Baptist Network for Cancer Care, said. 

Kahlenberg said the ERAS method goes beyond fighting drug addiction. 

“Many people with the opioid crisis that we're all being taught about and people hearing about, really has to do more with the addictive properties of opioids which of course we're concerned about. But we are also concerned about how it impedes or slows down return of function. So utilizing tried and true non-narcotic pain medications, we can actually minimize or even eliminate narcotic use,” Kahlenberg said. “In addition, our anesthesiologists can place catheters around the spinal cord to provide local anesthetic which helps to minimize pain after surgery. Those are called epidural catheters. So narcotics while they're good at treating pain, we can treat the pain and not have the side effects that opioids present.”

The ERAS Society said the method reduces the need to a hospital stay by 30 percent and keeps the longevity of stays to under two days for major abdominal surgery. 

Outside the oncology department, the ERAS program is also offered in orthopedics, plastic surgery and OBGYN procedures. 

Coy Zumwalt is on the road to recovery after surgery and did the ERAS program. 

“It's been like from almost invalid to hourly and daily improvements,” Zumwalt said. 

Zumwalt had a large tumor on his colon that grew into the wall of his abdomen. He agreed to try ERAS, a system of treatments aimed at reducing or eliminating opioid pain relievers after major surgery. He recommends this program to other people. 

"I'd tell them go for it. Go for it. You won't be sorry because I'm, today its Tuesday, five days after surgery you know and I'm ready to go home,” Zumwalt said. 

Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.