What is cryoablation?

Cryoablation is an innovative procedure that applies extreme cold to destroy or inactivate tissue. This medical technique has been used to kill cancer cells, correct an irregular heartbeat, and most successfully, relieve pain. For the latter, surgeons have exploited the mechanism behind cryoablation — which is theoretically similar to applying cold to numb, or anesthetize, a body part — as an agent to block nerve pain.

What Is Nerve Cryoablation?

Put simply, cryoablation for treating pain is a procedure in which the physician freezes the peripheral nerve responsible for transmitting pain signals to your brain. It involves the precise localization of the offending nerve. Cold temperatures applied to the tissue then damage it enough to interfere with pain signals, effectively shielding the brain from experiencing pain.

Along with the peripheral nerves indicated in pain, at Hudson Medical, the most common targets for cryoablation treatments include the genicular nerves for chronic knee pain, medial branch nerves for arthritis of the spine, and occipital nerve ablation for headaches.

In a cryoablation procedure, a thin, hollow needle called a cryoprobe is inserted into the skin and advanced toward the offending nerve under X-ray or ultrasound guidance. CO2 gas is then pumped through a tiny nozzle on the end of the hollow needle, which freezes the needle tip to -80 degrees Celsius and is used to selectively numb a section of the nerve.

How is it done?

Cryoablation is an outpatient procedure performed in an operating suite while the patient is under minimal sedation for their comfort. The surgeons will locate the target nerve and treat it with extreme cold, effectively freezing the nerve and blocking it from transmitting pain.

What are the benefits and risks of cryoablation?

In its current iteration, cryoablation was originally indicated to alleviate terminal cancer patients of pain. Only recently has it been adopted for wider use and in otherwise healthy patients. Today, clinical applications include migraine headache, sinusitis and other craniofacial neuralgia, chest pain, abdominal and pelvic pain, back and lower extremity pain, chronic knee pain, arthritis, and peripheral neuropathy (often caused by distal nerve entrapments associated with diabetes and autoimmune disorders).

Cryoablation requires access to special equipment and a specific skill set which most healthcare facilities lack. Hudson Medical offers a comprehensive approach to pain management supported by highly specialized staff and the most advanced treatment modalities available, inspiring confidence and renewed hope for pain-free living.

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