FOX 32 NEWS - An estimated 1 million Americans will undergo knee or hip replacement surgeries this year, and most will be given narcotics to deal with the pain.
It’s just that sort of surgery-opiate cycle that is helping to fuel the opioid epidemic in this country. But one Chicago doctor has found a way to perform surgery with little or no narcotics.
It’s only been 8-weeks since Greg Dytko had total hip replacement surgery. Dr. Ritesh Shah is his surgeon.
"He said move rather than baby yourself rather than taking medication to be able to move and I took that to heart,” Dytko said.
Six weeks after surgery, Dytko was out for a 2 mile run. Dr. Shah calls this ‘Rapid Recovery Orthopedic Surgery.’
"The most effective pain control we have after surgery is early mobilization,” said Dr. Shah.
Dytko is just one of many of Dr. Shah's patients benefitting from his surgical techniques. Dr. Shah says the process starts before he even begins operating. Number one: preparing the patient that movement is key to relieving pain. The more they move, the less likely they'll need narcotics for recovery.
He also uses special tools and lighting in the operating room which he says allows him to make a smaller incision, resulting in less harm to the body.
And in some cases during surgery, he injects a non-narcotic anesthetic that provides pain relief for up to three days after a patient's operation. The result is the patient isn't all drugged up, has a clear head and is able to start the recovery process immediately.
"One of the most difficult things to expect patients to do when you give them narcotics is to say why don't you get up and start walking, they might be lightheaded, nauseous, vomiting,” Dr. Shah said.
Dr. Shah specializes in hip and knee replacements. He says limiting narcotic prescriptions is not only good for the patient in the short term, but also the long run. Recent studies have shown that every year, surgeries put millions of people in the United States at risk of long term prescription drug use that can lead to addiction. That’s a big concern for Shah and his surgical team.
And the other bonus: Rapid Recovery Surgery saves money. It’s done on an outpatient basis. The patient is home the same day and doesn't have to spend time rehabbing in a hospital.
"If we can get them off narcotics quickly or minimize or eliminate the use of narcotics all together ...these are patients that can get back to a healthy life to work and be productive members of our society,” Dr. Shah said.
Dytko is feeling pretty good today and calls himself the poster child for recovery. He hopes he will eventually get the all clear to run a marathon again in the next year.