Results of A clinical trial conducted by researchers from Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, suggest that a techniques called cryoablation, or administration of extreme cold may provide amputees with relief from phantom limb pain (PLP). PLP is a frequently-occurring effect of limb amputation, and few effective treatments exist for the management of chronic pain emanating from the amputation site. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, almost 185,000 patients undergo an amputation each year in the United States. Many of these are performed on combat wounded military veterans, although diabetes and other medical conditions are also frequently involved. The researchers believe that cryoablation acts to freeze the nerve and scar tissue at the amputation site, thereby reducing nerve signals and pain levels. The findings were presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology, in Vancouver, Canada.
The trial examined 20 amputees diagnosed with PLP between January and June of last year. Participants rated their pain level using the visual analog scale, and then underwent image guided cryoablation. The procedure involves insertion of a probe needle under the skin at the amputation site and administration of minus 40 degree centigrade temperatures for 25 minutes. The same pain rating was then taken at 7 and 45 days post-therapy. Compared to an average pain score of 6.4 before cryoablation, participant scores fell to 2.4 at 45 days after the procedure. Study lead author J. David Prologo, MD, noted that the trial findings are preliminary, and that further research will be needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of the therapy. Read more about the clinical trial and results here.