Cold temperatures can be used to provide nerve pain relief. This process is called Cryoablation, and call also be known as Cryoneurolysis or Cryolesioning. The instrument used for this is termed a Cryoprobe.
During Cryoneurolysis, a nerve is frozen to interrupt its ability to transmit pain signals to the brain. This provides significant pain release immediately. While Cryolesioning can be applied to various organs and tissues and is used in a variety of medical specialties, for pain it is primarily used to treat peripheral nerves. However, a wide range of nerves can be treated.
How Does it Work?
The Cryoprobe is shaped like a long thin needle. This has channels through which nitrous oxide is passed under pressure towards its tip where it expands in a closed compartment. The release of the gas causes the temperature to reduce, which makes the tip of the probe drop to around -70 degrees Centrigrade. The probe then freezes the nerve fiber and the ice crystals that form disrupts the nerve. The pain nerve fiber then dies back; however, it will regrow over time.
The procedure is done in the operating room under local anesthetic. A special needle is inserted towards the nerve. Prior to lessoning, sensory and motor nerve testing may be performed to identify the nerve and confirm probe placement. Once the nerve is identified with a nerve stimulation test, the nerve is treated by decreasing the temperature surrounding the nerve to -70 C. The cooling of these nerves interrupts the pain messages before they are sent to the brain where the pain is actually perceived.
How Long Does Pain Relief Last?
Nerve interuption from the Cryoablation is typically only temporary. Pain relief from this procedure can last from six to twelve months or longer. Eventually, the nerves will regrow over time and the time frame varies for each individual.
Is It Safe?
Since it is a medical procedure, there may be some risks involved. Some risks include bruising, bleeding and infection; however, the chances of these risks occurring are low. Some patients may experience a short-term flare up of pain following this procedure. Other risks, although rare, include, but are not limited to, no effect on pain, increased pain and permanent nerve injury. Depending on which part of the body the nerve is, there may be other potential risks which will be discussed when obtaining consent for the procedure.