HealthWatch: Exparel: Helping Jessica Heal Pain Free


MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Being told your child needs open heart surgery is frightening enough. A major concern is the pain after the procedure. Now a new type of anesthesia is proving to be a real game changer in the operating room.  
Jessica Garcia was born with a hole in her heart. 
“When I was born they told my parents that I probably wouldn’t make it a week, or a month or anything,” said Garcia, a heart surgery patient.
At age 13, Jessica needed surgery to repair the VSD or ventricular septal defect. 
“I was down for it. I was totally cool about it.” Garcia stated.
Kristine Guleserian, MD, a Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital said, “We’re actually seeing an increasing number of children, not only neonates and infants, toddlers and children, adolescents who require open heart surgery.”
Dr.  Guleserian says most parents have the same concern: “Is my child going to be ok, are they going to be in pain after surgery?” 
Now doctors have a new weapon in the fight against post-surgical pain in children: it’s called Exparel. 
“It’s a local analgesic that we can inject in and around the incision after we have completed the open heart procedure.” Doctor Guleserian explained.
The medication then slowly releases over three days. Surgeons are calling Exparel a real game changer.  
Christopher Tirotta, MD, Director of Cardiac Anesthesia at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital said, “It will reduce the need for supplemental analgesics, particularly opioid analgesics.” 
Jessica was the first patient at Nicklaus children’s hospital to receive Exparel after her heart surgery. The next day she woke up smiling! 
“That day I wanted to run, walk, do everything, I told my parents can I get up from the bed, I’m tired of the bed.” Garcia said.
With the operation behind her, Garcia is back to being a busy teenager; “It’s unreal to me how easy I got out of this and how thankful I am.” 
Looking ahead to a happy and healthy future. 
Garcia says she wants to become a doctor when she grows up. Already FDA approved for adults, Exparel is being used “off-label” for kids now if over 12 since it is not FDA approved for children. Doctors say they hope this will soon become the gold standard in post-operative pain control for children nationwide. 
Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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REPORT:    MB #4389

OPEN HEART SURGERY: Open- heart surgery is any type of surgery where the chest is cut open and surgery is performed on the muscles, arteries, or valves of the heart. Grafting is the most common type of heart surgery done on adults; where a healthy artery is attached to a blocked artery, allowing the blood to bypass the blocked artery thus bringing fresh blood to the heart. Open-heart surgery is sometimes called traditional heart surgery. Many new procedures today can be performed using only small incisions, not wide openings; this is why the term “open-heart” can be misleading. Pain management post-surgery is incredibly important, as this can increase recovery speed and decrease complications from blood clots or pneumonia. Muscle pain, throat pain, pain at the incision sites, or pain from the chest tubes may be felt. 

OPIATE DEPENDENCE AFTER SURGERY: Most patients are given pain-blocking medications before, during, and after their surgical procedure. Prescription painkillers are highly effective and allow doctors to treat and fix certain medical problems that would otherwise be far too painful to address. These painkillers are often given intravenously before and during the procedure, and often given in pill form during recovery. As helpful as they can be, these can also trigger the onset of addiction. A vast majority of these medications are opiates, which are directly related to heroin, and the risk of dependence is very high. Symptoms accompanying the onset of opiate addiction include: anxiety if the drug is not available, obsession with having and using the drug, diminished pain- blocking effectiveness, dishonesty with doctors, pharmacists and loved ones, acts of taking the drug more frequently than prescribed, defensiveness when approached about drug use.

EXPAREL: Exparel is a non-opioid drug used as a post-surgical anesthesia, which does not have the harmful side effects that previous medications have had. Exparel is given to those going through localized surgeries or those in need of pain management. Exparel was made to completely eliminate the need for harmful and addictive narcotics that are usually given after surgeries or for pain management. With the use of Exparel, the amount of overdoses and patients developing addictions will decrease. Exparel is an injection that is given close to the surgical site that works by blocking the nerve receptors that detect pain. 


Jennifer Caminas 

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know~to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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