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Neurological Disorders Channel
Reported April 16, 2013

Freezing Nerves to Freeze Out Pain

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- New research shows that by using a tiny ball of ice, a minimally invasive interventional radiology treatment called cryoneurolysis, can safely short circuit chronic pain that is caused by nerve damage.

"Cryoneurolysis could have big implications for the millions of people who suffer from neuralgia, which can be unbearable and is very difficult to treat.   Cryoneurolysis offers these patients an innovative treatment option that provides significant lasting pain relief and allows them to take a lower dose of pain medication—or even skip drugs altogether," said William Moore, MD, medical director of radiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in Stony Brook, N.Y., was quoted as saying.

Over 15 million Americans and Europeans suffer from neuralgia, which is when a nerve is damaged due to surgery, diabetes, or traumatic injury.  Dr. Moore says that most patients rely on pain medications that can cause serious side effects and may not provide efficient relief.

Cryoneurolysis uses a small probe that is cooled to minus ten to minus 16 degrees Celsius, which creates a freezer burn along the outer layer of the nerve.  This interrupts the pain signal to the brain and eliminates the pain while also allowing the damaged nerves to grow as time elapses.

The study involved 20 patients who received cryoneurolysis treatment for many neuralgia syndromes.  They were evaluated by using a visual pain scale questionnaire immediately after treatment during one-week, one-month, and three-month intervals after the procedure.  Patients’ pain dropped from an average of eight out of ten on the pain scale to 2.4 one week after treatment.  Also, pain relief was sustained for about two months after the procedure.  Pain increased to an average of four out of ten on the pain scale after six months because of nerve regeneration, Dr. Moore explained.  He recommends cryoneurolysis treatments to be repeated as needed per patient.  However, some patients can receive up to a full year of pain relief from one treatment.

During treatment, an interventional radiologist makes a mark in the skin near the source of pain.  Then, they insert a small probe, which is similar in size to an IV needle that they used to advance through the skin to the affected nerves.  When the probe is cooled with pressurized gas, it creates ice crystals along the edge of the nerves.

"The effect is equivalent to removing the insulation from a wire, decreasing the rate of conductivity of the nerve. Fewer pain signals means less pain, and the nerve remains intact," Dr. Moore said.

SOURCE:  Presentation at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s Scientific Meeting, April 2013

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