Monongahela Valley Hospital Using Innovative Freezing Technique to Reduce Pain


(November 4, 2019 - Carroll Township, Pa.)

Monongahela Valley Hospital Using Innovative Freezing Technique to Reduce Pain photo
Dr. Antony Cuneo, from The Orthopedic Group, performs the Iovera cryoanalgesic procedure on a patient's knee to freeze the pain a week prior to total knee replacement surgery at Monongahela Valley Hospital.
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."

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.

"Our Orthopedic Institute has changed the way people experience joint replacement surgery and they are telling everyone about their experiences," said Thomas F. Brockmeyer, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of MVH's Orthopedic Institute. "Based on feedback from patients who had hip or knee replacement surgery following the Orthopedic Institute's program, it is a positive experience and we have the awards to prove it."

Since its inception, the Orthopedic Institute has garnered national recognition for MVH. Most recently the Hospital was designated a UPMC Health Plan Hip and Knee Joint Replacement Surgery Center of Excellence. This UPMC Health Plan program recognizes surgical facilities and orthopedic surgeons that demonstrate high quality outcomes, low complication rates and the best patient experience for UPMC Health Plan members in need of joint replacement surgery.

In addition, MVH was one of the first hospitals in Western Pennsylvania to earn The Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval for Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement. In 2017, at the time the designation was announced, of the 5,000 hospitals in the United States, MVH was one of only 29 hospitals to be awarded this advanced certification.

For four consecutive years, MVH has also received the Women's Choice Award as one of America's Best Hospitals for Orthopedics. This designation signifies that MVH ranks among the top 3,229 U.S. hospitals offering orthopedic services.

Healthgrades also recognized Monongahela Valley Hospital with its 5-Star Award for Quality Orthopedics. Healthgrades is a national company that provides consumers with the information they need to make more informed decisions including details about a provider's experience, patient satisfaction and hospital quality. More than 1 million people per day rely on Healthgrades to research, compare and connect with physicians.

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