Nerve Blocks Takes the Pain Out of Tummy Tucks

Injecting a combination of nerve blocks and long-acting local anesthetics into nerve branches around the abdomen before tummy tuck surgery appears to significantly decrease pain during the patient’s recovery period, according to a new study. A nerve block is an injection of medication into a specific area of the body that numbs the nerves there.

Dr. Lu-Jean Feng, a microvascular plastic and reconstructive surgeon, looked at the charts of patients who underwent an abdominoplasty over a ten year period. The treatment group included 77 patients who received the numbing solution—which works by blocking pain impulses between the abdomen and brain—and the control group included 20 patients who did not receive nerve blocks.

A comparison between the two groups found that  those who received nerve blocks prior to surgery:

  • Had significantly less pain following surgery
  • Required significantly less narcotics during recovery
  • Spent less time in the recovery room

The study used recovery room data and patient questionnaires and also found that the treatment group that received nerve blocks also had significantly less pain at home after surgery and was able to resume driving and other normal activities significantly sooner than the control group.

Dr. Feng said, “Today prospective patients are not only looking at the aesthetic quality of results of an elective surgical procedure. They are also looking at ease of recovery and shorter downtimes.”  She presented her study at Plastic Surgery 2010, an annual scientific meeting sponsored by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons that was held October 1-5 in Toronto.

The study may also lead to looking at using the technique for other cosmetic surgical procedures, such as breast augmentation. Another implication for use is that with reduced pain for patients, a combination of procedures may be tolerated more easily.

Read the abstract of the study at

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Dr. Michael J. Will cosmetic surgeon Maryland received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Jefferson College, his dental degree from Georgetown University and his medical degree from the University of Texas.

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