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Treating Pain With Surgery

Kidney failure picture

No one should have to live with chronic pain. Unfortunately, when pain is being caused by a vital organ, one can be stuck with limited options. Many people end up taking prescribed pain medication for their pain, which isn't ideal, since it limits day-to-day activities and can become addictive.

A team at University of Utah Health wanted to find a better way to treat people who were experiencing chronic pain caused by their kidneys. The team of urologists, interventional radiologists, and transplant surgeons did just that. Instead of prescribing patients medications for pain in their back and sides, they recommended an effective surgery.

According to U of U Health Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Campsen, MD, the described pain is usually caused by inflammation from kidney stones that doesn't go away when stones are passed.

Patients experiencing pain caused by their kidneys were treated with a nerve block, which temporarily stops the pain. The majority of patients said that the nerve block reduced their pain, and so they were recommended for renal autotransplantation (RAT). During RAT, surgeons move a patient's kidney to a different part of the body.

At one year after RAT surgery, pain was measured at less than one out of ten. Unlike the temporary nerve block, the surgery offers lasting results.

"Decreasing or eliminating a patient's chronic pain affects their quality of life in nearly every way," Campsen said. "Patients who were previously debilitated and depressed due to the limitations their pain put on their lives are now able to live the lives they want."

Dr. Campsen said the multidisciplinary team work is what makes this treatment easy and available for patients. Since the urologists, the interventional radiologists and surgeons are working together, it simplifies their pathway.

"Instead of having to navigate it all themselves, we're with them every step of the way - from diagnoses to referral to procedure," Dr. Campsen said.

The article written by the team with in-depth explanations can be viewed here.