Severe pain signals are emitted by the nerve endings of the limbs of amputees. A study was made on 20 patients and it suggests that freezing therapy may prove to be of important benefit in helping patients suffering from phantom limb.

It is estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that around 200,000 Americans undergo amputation procedures each year. Among these people, are those diagnosed with diabetes, trauma patients, and military veterans. The disease known as phantom limb is characterized by an acute pain and severe disorientation of the nervous system after the body has lost a limb.

A new research suggests that freezing therapy may be of great benefit to amputee patients for their phantom limb. Credit:

The study 

The participants were subjected to cryoablation. It is a process where a needle is inserted in the affected limb; the needle then emits shocks of cold in regular intervals. The process took about 25 minutes on every patient, and most of them indicated a positive result in reducing their pain. They were asked to state on a scale from 1 to 10 how much pain they were feeling. Before the treatment, the average was of 6.4, and after 45 days of treatment, it dropped to 2.4.

The researchers said that, although results seem to be promising, they are not too eager to establish cryoablation as a standard procedure in treating phantom limb pain. They argue that not every single participant in the study showed improvement in their condition, as some patient’s pain seems to originate from the brain rather than from the amputated limb.

Cryoablation is a process that uses extreme cold and was chosen as the proceeding method because it allows to find the nerves that contribute to the pain. Credit: Fox News

The study was led by J. David Prologo, MD at the Division of Interventional Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine. Through a press release, he stated that individuals suffering from phantom limb pain had few alternatives to ease their condition, but that cryoablation displays a very positive finding in treating these patients.

Cryoablation was chosen as a proceeding method because it allows the radiologist to find the nerves that contribute to the pain, which are, otherwise, inaccessible without image guidance. The patients must be under further examination to see if this treatment would be of certain benefit for those patients whose pain comes from the nervous endings.

There are already efforts to have the process approved by the American Medical Association in order to give phantom limb patients relief of their pain, but Prologo commented that most assuredly they would have to carry on more tests on a larger number of subjects, as they must yet complete further research procedures.

Source: CBS News