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Monongahela Valley Hospital Using Innovative Freezing Technique to Reduce Pain


Anthony Cuneo, M.D.For five years, Noreen Yakich endured intense pain in her right knee while she cared for her ailing husband. When the pain worsened to the point that she had to walk sideways, she consulted with Dr. Ari Pressman, a surgeon at The Orthopedic Group. Dr. Pressman scheduled the Charleroi resident for total knee replacement surgery and Iovera cryoanalgesia at Monongahela Valley Hospital (MVH). The Iovera cyroanalgesia is an innovative non-opioid therapy to decrease medication prior to surgery, decrease opioid use and assist with improving functionality following surgery. It uses the body's natural response to cold to treat peripheral nerves and immediately reduce pain — without the use of drugs. Treated nerves are temporarily stopped from sending pain signals for a period of time, followed by a restoration of function.

One week prior to Mrs. Yakich’s surgery, Anthony Cuneo, M.D., Ph.D., R.M.S.K, a pain management specialist at The Orthopedic Group, performed the minimally invasive Iovera procedure to freeze the nerves in her knee which numbed the pain.

“The freezing process really didn’t take very long — just about 30 minutes — and I was ready to go,” said Mrs. Yakich. “I recommend this freezing procedure to all of my friends,” added the great-grandmother-to-be.

Using cold to relieve pain dates back to the days of Hippocrates. Modern cryoanalgesia has been trusted for treating pain since the 1950s. Dr. Cuneo has been using Iovera cryoanalgesia therapy for people prior to total knee replacement surgery and those with arthritis for several months with impressive outcomes. The system enables Dr. Cuneo to deliver precise, controlled doses of cold through a portable handheld device. This treatment is safe and causes no damage to surrounding tissues — most importantly it eliminates the need for opioids to control pain prior to the surgery.

“In the age of the opioid epidemic, having new, innovative treatment options to reduce pain medication dependence is vital,” explained Dr. Cuneo. “Providing targeted cryotherapy with the Iovera system to nerves around the knee can do this. Cryotherapy can be used for people before their knee replacements or as an alternative treatment option for people that have knee pain but may not be surgical candidates. Also, at Monongahela Valley Hospital, we go one step further to make the treatment more comfortable for patients by using ultrasound-guidance to reduce typical treatment times to half. We're proud to be on the forefront of the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

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The Iovera cryoanalgesia procedure is just the latest advancement offered by The Orthopedic Group in conjunction with Monongahela Valley Hospital’s Orthopedic Institute. In 2012, MVH became an innovator in joint replacement surgery with the establishment of its Orthopedic Institute. The Orthopedic Institute is a program under the direction of a team of orthopedic surgeons and clinicians who are experts in knowing, anticipating and delivering care to a person having joint replacement surgery. The Institute emphasizes wellness and maximizes patient recovery efforts through education, a culture of early mobility, family involvement and group interaction.



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