NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Imagine having a knee replacement and be able to walk on the same day with almost no pain and no narcotic pain medication.

Not only is it possible, but as CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported it’s actually safer and less expensive.

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A time release local anesthetic uses hi-tech micro-encapsulation and can allow a knee replacement patient to be pain-free for up to four days.

One week after having a total knee replacement to address a sharp pain that went from her ankle and ran all the way up her leg Mary Saunders was able to fully flex her knee.

“It was just pain like I never had in my life. It’s sharp but from the foot and ankle all the way up,” Saunders said, “I haven’t been able to lift my leg, bend my leg or do anything for over two years so I’m ecstatic with it.”

What made Saunders’ recovery possible wasn’t the operation itself, but an anesthetic that was given to her on the day of the surgery.

“You infiltrate or inject around the incision and around the knee,” Dr. Michael Reiber said, “You’re getting all the tissue that has the pain fibers.”

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Conventional local anesthetics wear off a few hours. Exparel, a new time-release local anesthetic works by encapsulating a standard long acting anesthetic with tiny microspheres of lipid or fat. As the body slowly digests the fat the anesthetic is released over a period of as long as 96 hours.

“Patients are not taking narcotics, they are functioning mentally better, they are functioning in rehab so much better, they have their motor function, they’re ambulating around the floor walking by themselves,” Dr. Reiber said.

The most important benefit may be that without pain patients can start physical therapy right away. Faster, more aggressive rehab means faster recovery, better function and an overall better outcome.

“I would never have dreamed I’d be doing this. This time last week I was in surgery and her I am no. It’s just fantastic,” she said.

The sooner a patient can get up and about the lower their risk of serious complications like blood clots and pneumonia.

Exparel is expensive but it is cost-effective as it reduces pain control techniques and shortens hospital stays.

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