New treatment improves recovery for knee replacement patients

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FREMONT, Neb. Knee replacement surgery is typically a painful procedure that involves a long recovery and many times - powerful, often addictive medication to control the pain after the surgery. As Serese Cole reports, a Fremont Health doctor is performing a new procedure that's offering relief and stopping the pain - cold.

"It's a huge game changer when it comes to pain control."

Fremont Health Interventional Radiologist Dr. Jeffrey Himmelberg is excited about a new treatment for patients undergoing knee replacement surgery.

It's called Iovera.
It literally freezes pain away.

Here's how it works:
Three to 10 days prior to knee surgery - patients come in for the Iovera procedure. The area being treated is marked and numbed.

"We use this small device where there's these small needles," explained Dr. Himmelberg.

Eventually, those tiny needles get cold.
So cold, an iceball forms around the tips.
That iceball damages the nerve that transfers pain from the knee to the brain.

"What we're doing is we're long term blocking the signal so the patients don't perceive pain," explained Dr. Himmelberg.

The entire procedure takes 15 minutes.

"What's unique about this treatment is patients feel the difference immediately. In most cases - they get relief before they even walk out the door," said Serese Cole.

Most patients will walk out of here for virtually pain free," added Dr. Himmelberg.

"The pain relief lasts 90-150 days, but Dr. Himmelberg says it's what happens after the knee surgery that's most important.

"We're seeing that they can get range of motion achieved much faster," said Himmelberg. "They have told us how especially in patients that have maybe had one knee done - without the treatment and then had their second knee done with the treatment - their recovery time is roughly 50 percent shorter when it comes to being up and mobile and being pain free."

Because there's less pain - there's no need for powerful pain meds - like opioids.

"And with everything - you know about opioid addiction - and how it's exploded the last few years - that's probably the most important part of this is decreasing that pain medication," Dr. Himmelberg said.

Big benefits- thanks to a big chill and these small needles.

Dr. Himmelberg is also using the treatment on patients who are suffering from severe arthritis in the knee. They get the treatment every three to six months to keep the pain under control. It is covered by most insurance plans.