The pioneering technique shows a promise in improving the quality of life of all those who have had limb loss and are suffering ongoing pain.
Phantom limb pain is a severe kind of ongoing pain experienced by many of those who have had an arm or leg removed due to trauma, medical illness or surgery. The affected part of the body may no longer be there but its absence leaves a permanent unbearable pain. Currently, there are not many effective methods available to relieve the painful sensation.
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Now researchers from Emory University may have found a better way to deal with chronic pain. The new revolutionary treatment involves cryoablation therapy which uses cold blasts to reduce phantom limb pain. In other words, cryoablation is a minimally invasive treatment which uses extreme cold to freeze the affected tissues.
“Until now, individuals with phantom limb pain have had few medical interventions available to them that resulted in significant reduction in their pain,” said J. David Prologo from Emory University School of Medicine. “Now with the promise of cryoablation, these individuals have a viable treatment option to target this lingering side effect of amputation--a condition that was previously largely untreatable.”
In the clinical trial, a total of 20 amputees who have been diagnosed with phantom limb pain underwent image guided cyroablation where a probe needle is inserted under the skin at the point of limb loss. Then, nerves are exposed to 25 minutes of cold blasts for shutting down their signals.
Participants were asked to rate their pain on a scale that ranged from 1 (not painful) to 10 (extremely painful) before the treatment. Then, seven days later and lastly 45 days after the treatment. On average, the score reported before cryoablation was 6.4 but by the end of 45th day, the average score was 2.5 points, meaning the pain reduced gradually with the therapy.
“Many of the nerves contributing to these pains are inaccessible to physicians without image guidance,” said Prologo. “With the interventional radiologist skill set, we can solve tough problems through advanced image-guided therapies, and this promising treatment can target hard to find nerves and help amputees dramatically improve their lives – all in an outpatient setting.”
In the United States, roughly 200,000 people undergo an amputation every year and most of them are military veterans wounded in combat and people with diabetes who are often required to remove their body parts. This technique shows promise in improving the quality of life for all those suffering from phantom limb pain.
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Next, researchers are planning to track the effectiveness of technique at six months after the treatment and beyond.