Digging Deeper: Mercyhealth adds laughing gas to ER to prevent o - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Digging Deeper: Mercyhealth adds laughing gas to ER to prevent opioid abuse and addiction

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- "So I'm looking forward to seeing it, I haven't seen one in 17 years," Mercyhealth EMS Director Dr. Jay MacNeal said walking into a birthing suite, not to see a baby, but a new state-of-the-art laughing gas machine.

"Oh wow!" Dr. MacNeal cooed as OB-GYN Dr. Patricia Naan showed him the device.

"It has a whole lot of different features than the old one that you would have been used to," she said.

It's because laughing gas is back in fashion.

"We're coming back full circle to where we were in the 1900's with these inhaled agents," Dr. MacNeal explained.

He says it's in direct response to our nation's opioid epidemic.  

"There was always something better, something that gave better pain relief for us, so we went to the Dilaudids, the ketamines, the stronger drugs as we are learning since the year 2000 in this country, we know there are consequences to our actions," he said.

It's why Dr. MacNeal's ER started looking for another way to treat patients' pain.   

"If I'm suturing a small child or if I'm doing an incision and drainage, or a lumbar puncture or a short painful procedure, I can use this," he said.

Next month,  Mercyhealth's ER is adapting the laughing gas technology now used in Mercyhealth's birthing center for the last few years.  

"This is for patients who want to be in their labor process..they don't want to be numb," Dr. Naan said.  She believes it could be beneficial for the ER as well.

"It takes a lot of the anxiety out of it, it takes away a lot of the emotions out of the pain experience," she said.

In the ER, it could also help Dr. MacNeal deal with folks who don't like needles.

"I've got patients who don't want IVs sometimes, so this is a great opportunity to give them pain relief." 

But, beyond that: "It sets up quick and I think it's gonna work well for our purposes."

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