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Phantom Limb Pain

April 11, 2016

After losing a limb to amputation, many people often feel severe pain emanating from the non-existent appendage anyway. A new treatment targeting nerves could turn off the pain signals.



Telling pain to chill out. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the U.S. alone, more than 200,000 people lose a limb to amputation each year, and 85% go on to experience phantom limb pain.

DAVID PROLOGO (Emory University):

During the amputation, the nerve supplying the foot or the hand is cut, and that damage causes the nerve to send false signals to the brain that there’s pain in the foot or the hand that’s no longer there.


That’s David Prologo of Emory University. At the meeting of the Society for Interventional Radiology, he described a preliminary trial of a technique called image-guided cryoablation to locate and then freeze the nerves.


And when we do that, we shut down those false signals.


Most patients reported major reductions in their phantom pain. A larger study is needed to confirm the results, but Prologo says the technique could treat other painful nerve conditions as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.