Freezing away the Pain

Nov 12, 2019

Opioids are commonly prescribed for those with a total knee replacement. But with the increased attention turned to the abuse of these narcotics, a new method was approved a few years ago: cryoneurolysis.

"Cryoneurolysis takes the nerve just to the point of slightly damaging, basically bruising it, so that it doesn't conduct the painful impulses anymore," said Dr. Jeanie Skibiski, assistant professor in the School of Anesthesia at Missouri State University.

Skibiski partnered with Mercy, an early adopter of the technique, to conduct research on cryoneurolysis.

"I was especially interested in total knee replacements," she said. "A lot of people will say, 'It was the most painful thing in my life.'"

Different from nerve ablation, which is fairly common in cancer treatment, Skibiski says that the frozen nerve reverts to normal in approximately 90 days.

"We don't want to be just handing out pain pills and treating everything with a pain pill. This is a way to do it with a non-narcotic method," she said.

Due to the wide variation in patient pain threshold, Skibiski says orthopedic surgeons work with individual patients to determine the best way to manage the pain.

She now is working with Mercy and the Institutional Review Board to assess patient outcomes.