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Doctors treating pain after surgery without use of narcotic pills

Posted at 7:40 PM, Aug 07, 2017

Cancer doctors in the Valley are using a long-lasting nerve blocks to ease pain after surgery without the use of addictive narcotic pills.

Emily Main had a mastectomy a year ago at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Goodyear.

Doctors gave her a nerve block, which uses a catheter inserted near the surgery site. Tubing goes into a device containing numbing medicine, which is worn in a fanny pack. The amount of medicine can be adjusted over several days, and doctors say the device eliminates the need for narcotic painkillers for some patients.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is absolutely incredible!'" Main said. "I don't even hurt!"

Doctors say the nerve blocks significantly reduces the use of opioids, and they cut down on the possibility of patients developing a dependency or life-threatening addiction. 

"I think if we still trick the brain with a nerve block, but not getting all the side effects, that's really the ideal," said Dr. Vivek Iyer, a CTCA anesthesiologist. 

In 2016, nearly 800 people died of opioid overdoses in Arizona, prompting the governor to declare a statewide health emergency.