Ice packs reduce postoperative midline incision pain and narcotic Use: A randomized controlled trial

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Background Postoperative pain is an unavoidable consequence of open abdominal surgery. Although cryotherapy, the application of ice to a surgical wound site, has been shown to be effective in reducing postoperative pain in orthopaedic, gynecologic, and hernia operations, it has not been assessed in patients who undergo major open abdominal operations. We hypothesized that patients who receive cryotherapy would report lower pain scores as a primary outcomes measure. Study Design Patients undergoing abdominal operations with midline incisions were randomized to receive cryotherapy for a minimum of 24 hours in time intervals dictated by patient preference vs no cryotherapy. The primary outcome of pain relief was assessed with visual analog pain scores (VAS). The study was powered to detect a clinically significant difference in VAS between the control and cryotherapy group. Comparisons between groups were measured by Student's t-test or Mann-Whitney U test for parametric and nonparametric data, respectively. Results There were 55 patients randomized: 28 to the control group and 27 to the cryotherapy group. For the primary measure, mean postoperative pain score on postoperative days (PODs) 1 and 3 after surgery was significantly lower between the control and cryotherapy groups on the visual analog pain scale (p < 0.005). Narcotic use was decreased in the cryotherapy group on POD 1 by 3.9 morphine equivalents (p = 0.008). No statistically significant difference was found between the 2 treatment groups with respect to length of hospital stay, pulmonary complications, and wound infection rate in terms of secondary measures. Conclusions Ice packs are a simple, cost-effective adjuvant for decreasing postoperative pain and narcotic use in patients undergoing major abdominal operations. © 2014 by the American College of Surgeons.




Watkins, A. A., Johnson, T. V., Shrewsberry, A. B., Nourparvar, P., Madni, T., Watkins, C. J., … Master, V. A. (2014). Ice packs reduce postoperative midline incision pain and narcotic Use: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 219(3), 511–517.

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