New surgical protocol eases pain of colorectal surgery

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Delina Schexnayder is less than two months out from major surgery, but you'd never know it by looking at her. She moves well and she's back at work.

"I was able to get up and move around a lot better and that made me feel a lot better," said Schexnayder.

Schexnayder was diagnosed with rectal cancer a year ago after a colonoscopy revealed a large tumor. Treatment required radiation, chemotherapy, and two surgeries. Schexnayder says recovering from her first trip to the operating room was rough, but the team at Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center used a new technique during her second surgery that changed everything.

It's called Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Protocol or ERAS Protocol.

"This particular protocol allows us to have our patients recover faster after colorectal surgery," said colon and rectal surgeon, Dr. Louis Barfield.

The ERAS Protocol focuses on helping the patient before, during, and after surgery. Before surgery, doctors try to help patients get into the best possible shape. Unlike standard surgery procedures, patients are also allowed to drink clear liquids up to two hours before the operation. During surgery, anesthesiologists take extra steps to reduce pain, including injecting a long-lasting anesthetic into deep tissue. This step relieves pain for up to four days after surgery, and that means after surgery, patients feel better overall and require less pain medication.

"Overall pain control is decreased. Sometimes they don't even require pain medications when they're discharged home," said Schexnayder.

With the new protocol, patients like Schexnayder go home sooner and recover faster. "If I needed any more procedures, I would hope I could have that same thing," said Schexnayder.

However, Schexnayder's advice to others is to monitor your risk for colorectal cancer and catch it before surgery is ever required. "It's so much easier than anything that comes after if you are diagnosed with cancer," said Schexnayder.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth leading cancer diagnosis in Louisiana, but the second most deadly.

"Anyone with symptoms, bleeding, blood in stool, change in bowel habits, any significant symptoms like that should contact their primary care doctor," said Barfield.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.