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Valley doctor reducing opioid use with nerve-blocking procedure

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

PHOENIX — A Valley doctor is using a numbing procedure to treat pain that doesn’t require the use of opioids, which are highly addictive narcotic painkillers.

Dr. Vivek Iyer, a pain management specialist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Goodyear, instead uses nerve block injections to numb the pain. He said the response among patients has mostly been positive.

“They’re just basically amazed that they can have an experience where they take little to no pain medications,” he said.

Iyer said he mainly uses the injections for surgical patients. With every injection, he inserts a skinny catheter that’s connected to a ball full of numbing medicine. The ball drips the numbing substance through the catheter until the patient no longer needs it.

The procedure, which the center has been using for at least six years, has proven to be effective.

“We’ve reduced our narcotics by 80 percent, and that’s including patients who may have had chronic pain that are already on pain medicines,” Iyer said, adding that patients are going home earlier and are having fewer side effects.

He and other doctors have pointed to nerve blocks as a way to help reduce the opioid crisis, which President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency.

In June, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, after data showed there was a growing number of opioid overdose deaths in the state.

A total of 790 people in Arizona died last year from an overdose, a 16 percent increase from 2015, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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