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Freezing nerves before knee surgery improves outcomes

Patients whose nerves were frozen had shorter hospital stays, fewer symptoms, and required fewer opioid painkillers.
By Stephen Feller   |   Feb. 12, 2016 at 11:41 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Patients whose nerves are frozen before knee surgery had shorter hospital stays, fewer symptoms, and required fewer opioid painkillers, researchers said after an analysis of medical records.

Researchers at Louisiana State University found patients treated with cryoneurolysis before undergoing surgery recovered faster because of less pain in the post-operative period than patients whose nerves were not frozen.

Pain management is a major focus of post-surgical recovery because while the procedure is generally successful in the long term, it can be significantly painful immediately after surgery and threaten the efficacy of rehabilitation.

"Patients in the treatment group had significantly shorter hospital stays, were prescribed significantly fewer opioids during the first 12 weeks post-operatively and had significantly fewer knee symptoms," Dr. Vinod Dasa, an associate professor of clinical orthopaedics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, in a press release.

Researchers reviewed medical records for 100 total knee arthroplasty, or TKA, at LSU's Health New Orleans orthopaedic practice, 50 of whom were treated with cryoneurolysis before surgery and 50 who had surgery before the nerve freezing was added to their standard pain management protocol for TKA.

The records showed just 6 percent of patients whose nerves were frozen were in the hospital for two or more days after surgery, compared with 67 percent of patients who did not receive cryoneurolysis. Nearly half the patients who had the pre-surgical treatment left the hospital the day of surgery, compared to only 14 percent of the non-frozen group.

Patients who underwent cryoneurolysis before surgery also required 45 percent fewer opioids during their first 12 weeks after knee surgery, with a statistically significant drop in symptoms at both the six- and 12-week follow-up visits.

The study is published in the journal The Knee.

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