Image of Toufic Jildeh, M.D

Patients given a non-opioid pain regimen after knee surgery had pain scores equal to their peers who received opioids, and no difference in side effects, according to a study by orthopedic surgeons from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Their study’s 61 patients underwent outpatient surgery to repair torn knee cartilage. Half received opioids for pain control, and half received a non-opioid regimen that used pain relievers such as anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen and muscle relaxers. This multimodal pain management protocol brought immediate pain relief for many patients — without using powerful opioids like morphine, codeine, and oxycodone, reported Toufic Jildeh, M.D., chief resident in the health system’s department of orthopaedic surgery.

All of the patients reported satisfaction with their pain management. None of the patients in the non-opioid cohort asked for opioids, although they were given the option to do so, Jildeh and colleagues added.

The study is part of the Henry Ford Health System’s effort to reduce overall opioid use and help address the societal problem of addiction and overdose that has been tied to prescription opioids, Jildeh said. Many surgeons at Henry Ford now use the non-opioid approach as a standard of care for managing pain after meniscus, or cartilage, surgery, according to the health system.

From 1999 to 2016, Michigan saw a 17% increase in fatal prescription drug and opioid overdoses. In response, the Henry Ford Health System broadened its opioid reduction initiative in 2016.

The study was published in the journal Arthroscopy.