Local doctors cut opioid prescriptions by 70 percent for knee replacements thanks to new procedure

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – It’s a game-changing procedure for total knee replacements. The team at Riverview Health in Noblesville is leading the way to get people back on their feet sooner. And there’s an added benefit—this procedure cuts the pain so much, doctors have cut their opioid prescriptions by more than 70 percent.

“It’s a great feeling to get this done and have it behind you and know the pain, it’s just not there,” said James Williams, knee replacement patient.

James is back on his feet just two weeks after having a total knee replacement, a surgery he thought would have him down for months.

But that’s not the case thanks to a new procedure called Cryoanalgesia or cryotherapy for short. The device freezes the nerves that control the pain fibers.

“You take a compressed gas, it boils at minus 88 degrees Celsius and that actually is allowed to boil inside the needle itself allowing freezing temperatures of minus 88 degrees Celsius near the nerves,” Dr. Pieter Vreede said.

The procedure is performed a week before a total knee replacement, decreasing pain before and after the surgery. Jane Catlin says a promise of a lack of pain made the thought of a knee replacement less dreadful.

“I think it will make it much easier with the less pain and I’m determined to get back up and going as soon as I can,” Jane said.

And there’s another added bonus – less pain, less pain medication.

“So it was not uncommon for me to write for 300 tablets of pain medicine for a patient,” Dr. Jeff Ginther said.

Dr. Ginther adds there are 20,000 knee replacements year done every year in Indiana, so that’s equivalent to 6 million tablets of a strong narcotic sent out of our hospitals.

Now, thanks to this procedure, Riverview Health has cut its opioid prescriptions for knee replacements by more than 70 percent.

“Never had the opportunity or the desire to get hooked up in this drug thing where you gotta have the drugs because I didn’t take it. With the cryo freeze I just did not need it at all,” James said.

Dr. Ginther says what started as a way to reduce pain has a benefit that could improve lives for years to come.

“Before I retire this is one thing that I’m working on and I’m enjoying it and I feel it’s going to make a difference to a lot of people.”

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