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Kooky new pain treatment: smart ice implants

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Photo of an ice cube with an exclamation point superimposed.
Imagine if you could ice a nerve directly. Like right on it. Implanted. Ice almost literally in your veins.

And then tinker with the temperature.

Pretty cool! (🙄)

So this is now a thing (though not yet a product).

Reeder et al. cooked up a strange new high-tech treatment for pain: soft, bioresorbable coolers for a reversible block of peripheral nerves. So we’re talking about nerve blocks with a little freezer instead of anaesthetic, basically — and you can fiddle with the temperature.

The branding, obviously, would have to be “Smart Ice.” (It’s not literally ice, of course. But it’s definitely therapeutic icing in spirit.)

This is weird, but it’s not crazy. The principle is sound. But the devil will be in the details, as with most medical technology. And some of those details are:

  • It’s invasive, obviously, so that just automatically means that there’s some risk, no matter how good it is.
  • You can only block what you can locate, so this will fail in most cases of pain without a clear origin of the pain. Which is many kinds of chronic pain.
  •  We know that even trying to destroy nerves often fails, for many reasons. If destroying them fails, so will chilling. I discuss this issue in my nerve block article.

But this is a fascinating new technique, and I imagine it could be quite useful in some cases. Reeder et al. may well get rich.

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