According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Oklahoma ranks ninth nationally for the rate of overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers. However, there are new alternatives and break-through surgical procedures that just might help curb those statistics in the future.

“The prescription drug abuse epidemic is a national tragedy,” said Dr. Paul B. Jacob with the Oklahoma Sports Science and Orthopedics in Edmond. “I’m saddened to see the toll it’s taken here in Oklahoma … one of the most common ways patients first get exposed to prescription pain killers is after surgery.”

Jacob specializes in hip and knee replacement and adult reconstruction.

“A staggering 70 million patients receive opioids in a hospital or clinic following surgery each year,” he said. “What most people don’t know is that one in 15 of these patients end up using these drugs long-term.”

For Edmond patient Janet Burks the feeling of pain and even helplessness was nothing new. After a skiing accident 18 years ago where she pulled her ACL, her knees gave her nothing but problems and pain.

“I tried to push through the pain but then I fell down a flight of stairs a few years ago and my knee was just worn out,” said Burks. “I was in constant pain, even after two knee surgeries. I went through so many pain medications.”

So, in October, Burks went to see Jacob. He told her she was a prime candidate for knee replacement. He then explained a new surgical procedure he brought with him from working at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“A key component of my pain management regimen is a local anesthetic called Exparel, which I inject into the surgery site right before the surgery ends to control pain for several days,” explained Jacob. “Since Exparel treats pain at its source, patients don’t experience side effects such as confusion, drowsiness, nausea and constipation that you find with narcotic pain medications that enter your blood stream … In my practice, patients who are treated with Exparel are able to walk with assistance hours after surgery, which means they can start physical therapy sooner and get back to their lives sooner.”

And that’s just what Burks said she has done.

“After the first knee replacement surgery I came to, did a body check and realized the pain was gone,” said Burks. “I had no pain at all. I thought at first this could have been from the sedation. But, two hours later the physical therapist started me walking in a walker. I was walking with no pain.”

Burks said that feeling of little or no pain continued throughout her rehabilitation from the first knee replacement surgery. She said she recuperated within 10 days. Seven weeks later, she and Jacob were preparing for replacement surgery for her other knee. Burks said the outcome was the same or even better than the first surgery.

“I like to cycle and running was always one of my favorite things to do,” said Burks. “Now, I’m back on my bike riding. I had surgery in October and then again in December. By February you couldn’t even tell I had anything done … when you have major knee surgery you have this throbbing that continues afterward. You have to have so many pain pills to stop the throbbing. With this procedure I had no pain. It’s a miracle.”

Jacob said the best way to curb those opioid use statistics is to minimize or avoid the use of narcotics where possible, without compromising patient comfort and care.

“In the post-surgery setting, narcotics are no longer our only or best option,” said Jacob. “So, we need to move away from our ‘opioid-centric’ pain management and incorporate non-narcotic alternatives, like Exparel, into our standard of care. Turning off the flow of opioids from the postsurgical setting is a simple, actionable step we can take today to prevent one more person from going down the road to addiction.”

Burks said the impact the procedure and Jacob himself have had on her life has been tremendous. Helping her through her years of pain and discomfort was her husband, Barry, who she said is “an excellent nurse for being an engineer.”

“This procedure medically is really awesome,” said Burks. “I praise the medication and Dr. Jacob for bringing this knowledge to Oklahoma. Pain affects your whole personality. When you are constantly in pain you are a sad person.”

OKLAHOMA SPORTS Science and Orthopedics is located at 1616 S. Kelly Ave. in Edmond. For more information call 424-5426.

OKLAHOMA SPORTS Science and Orthopedics is located at 1616 S. Kelly Ave. in Edmond. For more information call 424-5426.