Sade Oladapo, MD

Sade A. Oladapo

Sade Oladapo, MD, specializes in chronic pain management, interventional pain management, radiofrequency ablation technique, spinal cord stimulation and sympathetic nerve block.

Dr. Oladapo sees patients at:

  • The Center for Advance Medicine, Pain Management Center, 4921 Parkview Place, Suite 14C, St. Louis, MO 63110

Please call 314-362-8820 for an appointment.

  • Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Pain Management Center, 3015 N. Ballas Road 

Please call 314-996-7200 for an appointment.

What happened in the course of schooling to influence you to choose your specialty?

I didn’t know a great deal about anesthesiology and pain medicine until medical school and residency training. It was during my rotation in pain medicine that I was moved by how debilitating chronic pain can be for patients. I thought to myself, this is what I want to dedicate my career to managing and is why I chose pain medicine as my specialty.  It is rewarding to make a difference in a patient’s quality of life.

Dr. Oladapo (far left) snowmobiling in Lake Tahoe, California with friends
Dr. Oladapo (far left) snowmobiling in Lake Tahoe, California with friends

Did you always know you wanted to go into medicine?

Although my parents will disagree and say I’ve talked about being a doctor since I was two years old, I didn’t always know I wanted to go into medicine. I excelled in math and science, and my parents were a big influence because they were both in the medical field. It just seemed like a natural fit for me.

What brought you to Washington University?

It was the desire to be among the leaders in anesthesiology and pain medicine — not only in those specialties but all specialties, as well. I’m really fortunate to have a department that supports my clinical endeavors.

Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?

What is most interesting is the variety of patients we see. We do get a lot of challenging cases because we are Washington University.

Depending on a patient’s health history and goals for recovery, our treatment plan can be different for different patients – even though their complaints may seem similar. It is interesting to work with the patient and choose an approach that best meets his or her needs.

What new developments in your field are you most excited about?

Pain management is a very young field. There are always new techniques and treatments. One of the new procedures we are pleased to offer is radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for spinal joint pain, knee pain and hip pain. This is very exciting because it is a treatment we previously did not have as an option for our patients who weren’t candidates for surgery or didn’t want surgery.

What is RFA?

Radiofrequency ablation is offered to patients for pain relief after other techniques have been tried with limited results, such as physical therapy, medications and steroid injections. RFA is a great long-term option for patients who are not a candidate for surgery or don’t want to have surgery.

The ablation is a two-step process. During the first procedure, the nerves in the patient’s area of pain are injected with a local anesthetic. The patient keeps a pain diary for eight hours following the injection. If the patient experiences at least a 50-70% reduction in pain level, he or she is a candidate for the ablation procedure.

The actual ablation procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes and requires no hospital stay or downtime. An electrode is inserted into the painful area and cooled thermal radiofrequency energy is used to safely target the sensory nerves causing the pain. The pain relief can last anywhere from 6 to 24 months.

Who are the ideal candidates for this procedure?

The ideal candidate would be someone who is looking for a more conservative way to manage pain or is not a surgical candidate.

 In some cases, ablation can help someone who needs knee surgery, but must lose weight to become a candidate for the surgery. The knee pain prevents the patient from exercising and this in turn keeps him or her from losing weight. The patient is stuck in the middle of no-man’s land. The ablation reduces the pain — allowing the patient to exercise and lose enough weight to be eligible for surgery.

It is also possible that a patient, who reduces his or her pain with RFA and is able to exercise to lose weight, may postpone surgery after the weight is lost. But of course, that is a decision the patient must make.

Dr. Oladapo (far right) with her sister and friends in Bangkok, Thailand
Dr. Oladapo (far right) with her sister and friends on vacation in Bangkok, Thailand

With opioid addiction becoming an epidemic, how do you keep your patients from becoming addicted to their pain medicines?

Most of the opioids we use for chronic/acute pain management have the potential to cause addiction. We formulate a plan for our patients who are on opioid pain medications, whether it is post-operative or long-term pain relief.

During a patient’s initial office visit, we discuss pain management and formulate a plan to manage his or her pain.

We try to optimize an individual’s care by utilizing chronic pain management resources and tools. This plan may include a schedule of weaning the patient off the opioid along with implementation of other therapies such as behavioral medicine and physical therapy (exercises to help cope with the pain).

Our patients receive comprehensive pain management treatment that includes working with a pain psychologist to help them work with the behavioral aspect of chronic pain – whether it is bio feedback, cognitive behavioral therapy or group therapy.

How does group therapy work?

Many patients with chronic pain often feel like they are the only ones suffering and their families don’t understand them or can’t relate to their chronic pain. It’s very healthy to see other people who are also experiencing chronic pain – they learn from each other what techniques work to manage the pain.

Our pain psychologist leads the group and also teaches breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to help cope with the pain.

Is there a particular award or achievement that is most gratifying?

Going through vigorous medical school curriculum and training to get where I am today is probably my most rewarding achievement. Being able to help improve somebody’s quality of life is the most gratifying.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

My father always taught me that if I work hard, there is nothing I can’t achieve. I think about that advice when there is something challenging or a problem that is daunting. I know that if I keep working on it, I’ll be successful.

If you weren’t a doctor, what would you like to be doing?

If I wasn’t a doctor, I would probably be a teacher. It puts me in a position where I get to influence young minds and help them cultivate new ideas.  Teaching the residents and fellows is one of the things I enjoy most about my position here.