Breast cancer surgery can rid your body of cancer, but leave you with weeks of recovery time and plenty of pain. However, a relatively new procedure called a pecs block procedure has been effective at preemptively blocking pain related to breast cancer surgery.
Patients wake up from surgery feeling significantly less pain as well as a shortened recovery time.
The procedure works by honing in on specific nerve endings within the chest that cause the most pain and numbing them before surgery even begins.
A pecs block procedure targets groups of pectoral and intercostal nerves in the chest. Using an ultrasound to guide the placement of a needle, a local anesthetic is injected between the thoracic wall muscles.
There are two different procedures: the pecs I block and the pecs II block.
The pecs I block anesthetizes the medial and lateral pectoral nerves. The pecs II block does the same as the pecs I block, only with an additional injection between the pectoralis minor and serratus anterior muscles that will numb the upper intercostal nerves. By targeting the nerves before the pain fibers are even stimulated, both post-surgery pain and recovery time are lessened.
The traditional practice for surgery is to prescribe strong opioids like hydrocodone, which are highly addictive and can also come with side effects like constipation and dizziness. Doctors are now under mounting pressure to limit opioid prescriptions because of the opioid epidemic, making the pecs block procedure is even more promising.
The procedure is being used more frequently all across the United States, but some states have been slower than others in adopting the new technique. For example, Dr. Phillip Ley is currently the only surgeon in Mississippi who is regularly using the pecs block procedure. In Mississippi, opioid prescriptions for non-cancer patients can’t last longer than a week, so finding alternate pain-relieving measure like the pecs block procedure is becoming a necessity.
Watch the video below to see the procedure explained in real time by Dr. Thomas McClellan, a plastic surgeon.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.