CENTRAL Victorians are receiving improved pain management after a new clinic opened at Bendigo Health.
The perioperative pain clinic aims to prevent the long term harm that can come after surgery with prolonged use of opioids. These are drugs such as morphine.
It is also helping some patients on long waiting lists for surgery optimise their medication use to get the best outcomes from surgery.
Specialist pain physician Doctor Kim Hattingh said opioid use was necessary around surgery, but the drugs could cause harm when taken over a long period of time.
Dr Hattingh said up to 10 per cent of people who had a big surgery without having previously been on opioid medication would keep using it long term.
This caused more pain in the long run and reduced quality of life, she said.
But Dr Hattingh said the new clinic meant Bendigo Health surgeons could refer their patients for assessment after discharge, to avoid inadvertently staying on the wrong medication.
She said surgeons could also refer patients who were on long waiting lists for operations, to optimise their medication management.
Dr Hattingh said it was the first time Bendigo Health has employed a specialised pain physician. She also works at a separate multi-disciplinary rehabilitation clinic, that helps people with chronic pain.
Part of her role involved meeting new Australians objectives around early intervention and stewardship, that were designed to prevent harm from opioid use in a hospital setting, Dr Hattingh said.
She said many people had a misconception that medication would sort out their chronic pain.
But Dr Hattingh said in reality, it was usually the reverse. Part of her role in the rehabilitation clinic was to help people work on other ways to reduce their chronic pain.
"The people on those sort of medication we're talking about, they tend to do worse over time, and have more pain and less enjoyment of life compared to people not on those medications," she said.
"As pain becomes chronic all sorts of things start to activate pain, a bad night's sleep, depression, the weather, everything starts to activate pain.
"That's when you have to start looking at the ways to treat chronic pain. Chronic pain is where the medications work very little. And a lot of the time they are doing some sort of harm, in taking away their enthusiasm in enjoying life."
Dr Hattingh said most people who got stuck using opioids did so through no fault of their own, as a consequence of some sort of acute event such as surgery.
She said opioid dependence was very much a problem for regional Victoria.
Dr Hattingh said part of her role was to make better pain management advice more widespread.
She said Australia was leading the world when it came to pain management recommendations, but it was often hard for doctors to change their practices.
General practitioners can refer patients to the rehabilitation clinic.
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