Ultrasound technology at New London Family Medical Center is providing greater comfort to patients following various orthopedic and non-orthopedic procedures. Last year the hospital purchased an ultrasound unit that is used for post-op pain control blocks.
“The anesthesia department at New London Family Medical Center is proud to offer Ultrasound technology to our patients,” said Shay Korittnig, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) at the NLFMC Department of Anesthesia. “The practice of anesthesia is constantly changing and evolving, and we are continuously improving and updating our department to offer our patients the best and most advanced anesthesia care possible.”
Ultrasound is “physics, expertly applied to the art of neural blockade,” said Korittnig. “The act of blocking a nerve is described as the injection of local anesthetic near nerves for temporary control of pain. This interrupts how pain signals are transmitted from the nerve to the brain.”
Ultrasound technology allows CRNA’s like Korittnig to visualize the nerves as well as other structures beneath the skin as they perform a nerve block.
“Nerve blocks are used for various procedures including total joint replacement of the hip, knee, and shoulder,” he said. “They are also used to repair limb fractures. Other non-orthopedic procedures include numbing the abdomen after caesarean section, and difficult IV placement.”
There are many benefits to a nerve block with ultrasound such as increased patient safety by visualizing the nerves, as well as adjacent structures such as veins and arteries; decreased post-operative pain; increased effectiveness of the block; decreased time in performing the block/decreased needle insertion attempts; increased patient comfort; and increased patient satisfaction.
Also, this allows for decreased narcotic consumption which leads to decreased sedation/somnolence; decreased nausea and vomiting; decreased constipation; and increased ability to participate in physical or occupational therapy, which can decrease recovery times.
Korittnig said the need for ultrasound arose in response to an increasing orthopedic surgeries population. “Pain management is important in this population, especially for enabling the patient to tolerate and participate in a potentially uncomfortable physical or occupational therapy session,” he said.
“Orthopedic surgery is one of our busiest specialties,” added Korittnig. “Our surgeons have been very supportive and encouraging of our initiatives to make our patients' stay with us as smooth and comfortable as possible.”
The ultrasound unit is just one of the advances the department is making. In the near future, they will be instituting a continuous nerve block program.
“The current injections being performed are single-shot, meaning they do wear off after approximately 12 to 16 hours,” said Korittnig. “Our continuous nerve blocks will consist of a small catheter being placed near a nerve to provide continuous pain relief that can last for days. The ultrasound machine will assist us in successfully placing the catheter in the correct position beneath the skin and adjacent to the targeted nerves.”
The result is patients who will be able to move their limbs pain-free but have a high degree of pain relief at the same time. “This will provide our patients with an even better pain relief, and retain the ability to actively participate in physical therapy,” said Korittnig.