New research shows that damaged nerves can be fixed with the help of a frozen needle and advanced imaging.
Using improved imaging guidance, a frozen needle can help restore damaged nerves, according to a new study presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston.
Patients who suffer from chronic pain following a traumatic injury may benefit from a procedure known as interventional cryoneurolysis, which is performed by an interventional radiologist.
J. David Prologo, MD, FSIR, ABOM-D, an interventional radiologist and associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said, “The idea that we can induce regeneration of damaged nerves simply by placing a cold needle through the skin under imaging guidance is extremely exciting.”
“This research answers the call from United States legislators and specialty medical societies to develop alternatives to opioids for the management of pain.”
Emory University researchers used CT-guided interventional cryoneurolysis to treat eight patients with chronic nerve pain caused by a previous trauma. CT-guided cryoneurolysis involves inserting a needle into injured nerves and freezing them, causing them to deteriorate and lose function.
“What happens next is almost magical,” adds Prologo.
“If the nerve is exposed to the correct amount of cold, over the correct area, for the right amount of time, it will regenerate—replacing the previously damaged nerve with a healthy one.”
After a catastrophic injury, the average delay to the procedure was 9.5 years in this study. There were no procedure-related problems or side effects, and all patients gradually regained their baseline strength, indicating that the targeted nerve had healed. Following regeneration, pain symptoms improved considerably in six of the eight patients, resulting in a 4.6-point reduction in Visual Analog Scale pain scores.
The interventional radiology competence used in nerve freezing, according to Prologo, has a wide range of applications in the treatment of complicated pain.
“We are using this regeneration technique not only to manage nerve pain induced by trauma—but also for pudendal neuralgia, post mastectomy pain, post-surgical pain, and many other conditions historically managed with narcotics,” explains Prologo.
“Interventional radiologists can place these needles safely in precise locations all over the body, allowing access to pain generators that were previously unreachable and giving hope to patients who struggle with pain.”
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