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Sanford Health to study alternatives to opioids

Double-blind study seeks to better manage pain while lowering prescriptions

Robert Van Demark Jr., MDSIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sanford Health is one of three sites in the U.S. to launch a study to determine if non-opioid medications are as effective in managing pain after carpal-tunnel surgery.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition causing numbness, tingling or pain in the hand and arm.  The surgery to treat the condition is one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S. This double-blind study will evaluate the effectiveness of two pain management courses: hydrocodone and acetaminophen or ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Opioid addiction continues to be a crisis in the United States, with nearly 100 Americans dying every day from overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of all drug overdoses are related to opioids, and prescriptions for them have nearly quadrupled since 1999.

This study seeks to better understand pain management and find alternatives to prescribing opioids. 

“Opioid addiction is a real concern for surgeons,” said Robert Van Demark Jr., M.D., who is the principal investigator for the study and hand surgeon with Sanford Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “We know that there’s a need to both balance the pain management of our patients and to ensure we do everything we can to combat possible addictions. This study is one step we can take to better understand how to do that.”

The study, which began in October, is based on work from a researcher in Canada. Health systems in Roanoke, Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also are taking enrollees.

To be eligible for the study, enrollees must be 18 years or older, not be on a pain management or ibuprofen or acetaminophen regimen, have no prior addiction or substance abuse and not have cardiovascular or liver diseases. Participants will be followed for two weeks post-operation and be asked to keep a pain journal.

For information or to discuss qualifications, call 605-328-1368.

About Sanford Health 
Sanford Health is one of the largest health care systems in the nation, with 44 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and serving the Upper Midwest, with nearly 1,400 physicians, Sanford Health is dedicated to several initiatives, including global children’s clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. Sanford Health has 28,000 employees, making it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford over the past decade have transformed how Sanford Health can improve the human condition. For information, visit sanfordhealth.org.


Jacqueline Palfy
Sanford Health Media Relations
605-366-2432 / jacqueline.palfy@sanfordhealth.org