TECH BYTE: Tech for Ditching Opioids

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Some doctors are using tech to help their patients avoid pain pills.

“I wanted to get off opioids as quickly as I could, obviously. But also I didn’t want to have a lot of pain,” said Bob Main, a knee replacement patient.

That’s why Main decided to use a different method to recover from surgery.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Matthew Bernard used a special device on Main, delivering a form of intense cold therapy.

“The Iovera machine will identify your nerves that go to your knee, and there’s liquid nitrogen on one side, and there’s needles on the other side, and it will freeze that nerve,” Dr. Bernard said. “By freezing that nerve, it will gradually grow back over a series of months, but it quits sending messages to the brain, so we get some pretty good superficial pain control that’s long-lasting.”

The Iovera machine has helped Dr. Bernard cut back on giving his patients opioids. Some were able to do away with them altogether!

Main was on opioids for less than a week.

“I was able to get off opioids real quick,” Main said. “I made significant progress in therapy because I wasn’t having a lot of extra pain. I’m six months out, and I think I’m fully recovered.”

Not everyone who undergoes surgery is that lucky.

“About one in five people that were writing post-op pain medicine for, will still be on opioids a year from now,” Bernard said. “68 out of 100 people seen by physicians are given a prescription for an opioid across the country.”

According to federal data, more than 68,000 people in the U.S. died from a drug overdose in 2020.

And surgeons like Dr. Bernard hope technology like the Iovera machine will continue to keep their patients from becoming part of that statistic.

“Orthopedic surgeons have been at the center of that because what we do hurts,” Bernard said. “We have to get our patients through. We don’t want them to be immobile because we don’t want them to get bed sores and blood clots. So we want to see what we can do about getting our patients up and going before and after surgery with as little opioid as possible.”

For more information about the Iovera machine, go to

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