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ONLY ON 3: Omaha trauma surgeon finds cryotherapy as possible strategy to replace opioids

Patient undergoes cryotherapy for pain relief for rib fractures
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 19:32:54-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — You could call Council Bluffs man Jim Berry an active man. He builds cars, loves drag racing and four-wheeling. But just a month ago, the four-wheeling went too far. An accident left him with several broken ribs.

"It felt like I had been pierced through my back and it would poke out here. So every movement was like the tip of the dagger moving back and forth and it was like digging in, like cut, cut, cut," Berry said.

Initially, Berry was told he'd have to wait six to eight weeks to let his ribs heal naturally. But that didn't work for his lifestyle or career, so CHI Health CUMC-Bergan Mercy Trauma Surgeon Dr. Carlos Fernandez decided to try something new.

"We wondered what else can we do? When the cryotherapy concept came about, it's basically the freezing of the nerves using controlled temperature to cause a temporary and reversible damage to the nerve. It usually lasts two months and matches the healing time of rib fractures," Fernandez said.

What happened after?

"No sharp pains, no 'don't do that' pains really. But then again, I try to keep myself, I have no problems eating, moving," Berry said.

"It was amazing for me to see how much he changed the next day," Fernandez said.

CHI Health CUMC-Bergan Mercy is the first to prove the method works for rib fractures. Berry opted out of using prescription pain killers, a benefit Dr. Fernandez sees for other patients.

"This is one of the strategies to minimize exposure of patients to opioids. It's a difficult puzzle and this is one of the answers to that puzzle, is how to battle and win the opioid pandemia," Fernandez said.

Fernandez says he needs to do "randomized clinical trials" to confirm the findings. He hopes to expand the application of cryotherapy without surgery.

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