Minimally invasive treatment reduced phantom limb pain

A minimally invasive technique significantly reduced phantom limb pain, according to research recently published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

J. David Prologo, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Interventional Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine and colleagues used cryoablation therapy to improve the quality of life of patients with phantom limb pain.

“Until now, individuals with phantom limb pain have had few medical interventions available to them that resulted in significant reduction in their pain,” Prologo said in a press release from the Society of Interventional Radiology. “Now, with the promise of cryoablation, these individuals have a viable treatment option to target this lingering side effect of amputation — a condition that was previously largely untreatable.”

In the study, Emory University’s interventional radiology team treated 20 patients with image-guided cryoablation of the nerve and scar tissue in the residual limb. They placed a probe through the skin and dropped the temperature for 25 minutes to create an ablation zone, shutting down nerve signals.

According to the release, patients were asked to rate their pain on a visual analog scale of 1 (not painful) to 10 (extremely painful) before the intervention and at 7 days and 45 days after the intervention. The average pain score before cryoablation was 6.4 points. By day 45, the average score was 2.4 points.

“Many of the nerves contributing to these pains are inaccessible to physicians without image guidance,” Prologo said. “With the interventional radiologist skill set, we can solve tough problems through advanced image-guided therapies, and this promising treatment can target hard-to-find nerves and help amputees dramatically improve their lives — all in an outpatient setting.”

The researchers will continue to track the effectiveness of cryoablation at 6 months after treatment and beyond. They have applied for a Department of Defense grant to continue the research, Prologo said.



Prologo JD, et al. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2016;doi:10.1016/j.jvir.2015.12.670.

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