Pain relief patches, also called fentanyl or transdermal patches, work much like oral pain relief medications by releasing small amounts of narcotic-based medicines in timed doses. Unlike oral pain relievers, however, the medicine in transdermal patches does not directly and immediately enter the body. First, small amounts accumulate on the surface of the skin, until there is enough to prompt absorption, according to Mayo Clinic.
With fentanyl patches, like oral pain relievers, doctors prescribe different types and quantities of medications. Some doses need adjustment to administer more or less medication. Once people place transdermal patches on their skin, the medication takes some time to absorb, and may not prove effective until a week after application, notes Mayo Clinic.
Sometimes, physicians supplement transdermal patches with oral pain relief medications, which provide faster-acting relief, reports Mayo Clinic. As the effects of transdermal patches appear, doctors wean patients off oral medicines. Dosage in oral and patch pain relievers varies according to age, ailment and severity of pain. Once in place, people leave their patches on for up to 72 hours, or 3 days, for maximum effect.
As with other medicines, patients follow important safety protocols when using transdermal patches. These patches must be applied to skin free of alcohol and oil. Patches should be removed after 3 days. Although they contain similar medicines as oral medications, transdermal patches should never be consumed.