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2022-07-22 07:30:49 By : Mr. Tuya Smart

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - When Lindsey Cavlovic got hit by a car in Blackstone last summer, she broke 22 bones, including several ribs.

But there’s one thing that Lindsey says saved energy and a lot of pain during her months-long recovery process.

“It would’ve been so much harder and taken a much longer time to recover.”

It’s a procedure called cryoablation of the intercostal nerves.

“You don’t want to do physical therapy when you’re in so much pain constantly, so it just alleviated the pain in my chest and allowed me to focus on the other injuries,” Lindsey says.

The procedure is used when someone has broken ribs that need to be ‘fixated.’

In other words, the ribs need to be put back together and held in place by titanium plates.

“Each one of your ribs has a nerve that runs underneath it which is called the intercostal nerve, and that can be a source of pain especially when you break your ribs,” says Dr. Zachary Bauman, Nebraska Medicine’s Trauma Medical Director. He’s also the director of the chest wall injury program at Nebraska Medicine.

Bauman has performed the cryoablation surgery dozens of times.

“Basically what that is, is freezing that nerve down to minus 60 degrees Celsius we freeze them for a total of two minutes and by doing that, [it] deadens the nerve and creates a numbing sensation across the chest, and it really helps with not only the operative pain but the rib fracture pain itself.”

The nerves eventually regenerate three to six months after being frozen. Bauman performed the procedure on Lindsey just three days after her accident.

“It’s tremendously beneficial,” he says. “When your chest wall gets injured with rib fractures or sternal fractures, it’s extremely painful, and the thing about your ribs is they never stop moving. Unlike other bones in the body when you want them to heal, we stabilize those and keep them from moving and it’s not as painful. But, your ribs you can never stop moving, otherwise, you’d stop breathing and you’d die.”

Not only does the surgery help stop that pain but Bauman says studies done at Nebraska Medicine show that it decreases a patient’s reliance on pain medication.

“I can confidently say that this procedure allowed me to stop taking the opioids far before I would’ve been able to if I had not had the procedure done,” she says. “I mean just nine weeks after my accident, I was able to stop taking opioids.”

Bauman can relate to the pain, too. He decided to become a trauma surgeon and focus on cryoablation all thanks to a horse.

“So, when I was 18 I broke some ribs, I got kicked in the chest by a horse, I grew up in the rodeo,” he says. “So I had three rib fractures, and I know what they feel like, they’re very painful.”

Back then, rib plating and cryoablation weren’t nearly as common. But because of his past experiences and how he has helped others, including Lindsey, she’s inspired to follow his path, too.

She always planned on entering the medical field, thinking she wanted to be involved in oncology research. But because of this, her focus is clearer.

“I want to do research in cryoablation because I think the future of it is so promising, and as it becomes done more and more, other patients can have a chance to recover quickly, and as well as I have,” she says.

Lindsey is currently enrolled in UNMC’s Masters of Anatomy program and plans to apply to UNMC’s medical school this year.

Dr. Bauman says he’s working hard to bring the procedure to more patients, too.

“We are actually working on implementing this in the clinic so we can do this percutaneous, if you come to the clinic and maybe you didn’t need rib fixation at the time, but you still have some chronic pain, we’re looking at trying to implement that and perform this right in the clinic under ultrasound guidance and local anesthesia.”

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