Radiologists use cryoablation to ‘freeze’ phantom limb pain

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New results from an ongoing clinical trial show the potential of a minimally invasive procedure known as cryoablation to effectively treat patients suffering from phantom limb pain, according to researchers from Emory University.

The procedure, which consists of cold blasts applied to patients suffering from phantom limb pain—or perceived chronic pain in amputated limbs—uses image guidance to treat trouble areas and disable the nerves responsible for causing the pain.

“We insert a cryoablation probe into the nerves causing pain and drop the temperature to negative 40 degrees centigrade for 25 minutes,” lead author J. David Prologo, MD, told

For the trial, the researchers asked patients to rate their pain on a scale from 1-10 before, seven days after and 45 days after the cryoablation procedure. Preliminary results showed that the treatment was successful in reducing patients’ reported pain from an average score of 6.4 points to 2.4 points by the 45-day mark.

The procedure could prove particularly beneficial in the growing population of war veterans with combat-related amputations, said Prologo.

“More veterans than ever are returning from war with amputations, because of improved body armor and extraction techniques,” he said. “At the same time, veterans who fought in the Vietnam War still suffer from phantom limb pain. Until now, they’ve had few medical interventions available to them with the potential to reduce significant pain.”

The trial, which is funded by Galil Medical, will continue to produce data until February 2017.