Pain after surgery is unavoidable, and opioid medications are the cornerstone of most pain
management regimens. However, they come at a cost with profound impacts on gastrointestinal
motility, respiratory depression, and even long-term dependence. Stimulating the external ear
with cutaneous electrical current is similar to acupuncture and could help improve
postoperative pain. The Bridge device (manufactured by Key Electronics [Jeffersonville, IN,
USA] and distributed by Innovative Health Solutions [Versailles, IN, USA]), has been used
with success in treating opioid withdrawal and in animal studies has shown increases in pain
thresholds. The investigators propose a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled,
double-blinded trial to evaluate if auricular neurostimulation improves postoperative pain
and reduces opioid requirements for patients undergoing elective colon surgery.
pain perception in post-operative patients may be modulated via the auricular branch of the
vagus nerve. This has the potential to reduce the use of opioid medications, which will in
turn reduce the incidence of postoperative ileus and reduce patient need for and dependence
on narcotic pain medications. This would have an enormous economic impact due to decreased
length of hospital stays for patients who undergo abdominal surgery. In addition, opioid
reduction could potentially lessen the national crisis of opioid addiction.