Opioids are commonly prescribed for people undergoing a total knee replacement. But with the increased awareness of the abuse of these narcotics, a new application of an old technique 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.
The nerve is percutaneously frozen so that after surgery, you don’t feel as much pain, she says.
Skibiski is working with Mercy, an early adopter of the technique, and plans to study patient outcomes with 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 more common in chronic pain and cancer treatment, Skibiski says that the frozen nerve reverts to normal in about 90 days.
“We don’t want to be 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 received Mercy Institutional Review Board approval for the retrospective analysis and has begun work on the project.