Nonopioid Strategies for Controlling Pain After Transoral Surgery

October 18, 2023

Ron Karni, MDTransoral surgery (TOS) gives throat cancer patients options beyond traditional chemotherapy and radiation, with fewer side effects in those appropriately selected. Now, physicians who perform TOS in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston are prescribing patients effective nonopioid strategies for postsurgical pain.

“As physicians, we can have an enormous impact on the opioid epidemic by limiting our prescriptions of these drugs,” says Ron Karni, MD, associate professor and chief of the Division of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. “We find that most patients can be off opioids by the second or third day following surgery. For patients who continue to experience pain, we suggest steroids and nerve-modifying pain medications like gabapentin. Wounds in the mouth can easily be treated with the many topical products available, and some patients find acupuncture effective at controlling postsurgical pain. When we reduce our patients’ use of opioids, we also avoid their harsh side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and headaches. By deploying these smart strategies, we’re giving our patients a softer landing for pain after surgery.”

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