How is my pain controlled after surgery?

Planning for post-operative pain control begins during your surgery. There are multiple techniques to minimize pain.
Local anesthetics can be injected into the surgical site at the end of the procedure.
Intravenous agents such as narcotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are carefully dosed in the operating room and recovery room.
An epidural catheter can be placed prior to surgery. Postoperatively, dilute solutions of narcotics and/or local anesthetics are dosed through the catheter. This technique is utilized commonly in major vascular surgery procedures. The epidural is left in up to 72 hours postoperatively.
Narcotics can be injected with local anesthesia as part of a spinal anesthetic. We use this technique with many of the radical prostate operations.
A patient controlled analgesia pump (PCA for short) allows for self-medication. This device features a wrist watch like pump which delivers small doses of narcotic according to patient demand. The dosage amounts are adjusted in the device to prevent overdose.
Most often pain is controlled by several of the above approaches at once.
Special thanks to Lisa Smith, R.N. for this additional information.