Nerve block for kids

April 23, 2008 3:47:12 PM PDT
Kids who undergo orthopedic surgery usually have to stay in the hospital in pain for days. But now doctors at 'Children's Hospital of Philadelphia' say there may be a way to lesson the pain and get them home faster.

Cole Fenton, 10, of Hopewell, New Jersey, compares hospital operating rooms to scary movies. "It kind of looks like Frankenstein's office," he said.

And he's been in plenty of those offices. Cole's already had 15 orthopedic surgeries.

"He's had a lot, I mean, even bone surgeries as early as eight-months-old because he was born with the disorder of having bones missing or needing fixing," his mother Tracy Fenton said, adding, "And he had a lot of pain after the surgeries."

But the most recent procedure was different. Cole took part in a study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where doctors wanted to see if kids could handle an adult pain-relieving procedure called continuous peripheral nerve block.

"Basically it is like when you go to a dentist and they put in some novacaine. They block the nerves," explained Dr. Arunian Ganesh of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In this case, doctors block the nerves to the area they're operating on. "Then we just put in a little catheter close to the nerve and we infuse local anesthetic through a pouch," Dr. Ganesh said.

Local anesthetics don't have the harsh side effects of pain killers like morphine. And the pouch is portable so kids can recover at home.

Dr. Ganesh said in the majority of cases it's working well. Cole said, for him, it made a difference. "I was doing a lot more than what I would usually do in a normal surgery," he said.

Complications from the nerve block are rare but can include less than perfect pain relief, bruising or discomfort at the injection site.