The effects of cryotherapy in relieving postarthroscopy pain

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Abstract

Aim.

The aim of this study was to examine whether the application of cryotherapy with ice in a plastic bag is effective in reducing the severity of wound pain after arthroscopy.

Background.

In most studies, analgesic medication were administered prior to surgery; postoperative pain may be reduced by analgesics, but they are known to confound the effects of cryotherapy. Cryotherapy by Cryocuff system has commonly been used to manage post arthroscopy patients’ pain. Few studies have tested the effects of cryotherapy by simply applying ice in a plastic bag to relieve postarthroscopy pain.

Design.

This was a prospective, double-blinded, quasi-experimental study with two groups, interrupted time-series design and multiple treatment replications.

Method.

Fifty-nine patients who received arthroscopy between July–August 2007 were assigned to receive cryotherapy (the experimental group, 33 people) or no cryotherapy (the control group, 26 people). For the experimental group, three 10-minute sessions of ice packing were conducted over a three-hour period, with 50-minute intervals between each session. The first session of ice packing was applied immediately after recovery from anaesthesia.

Results.

Cryotherapy with ice in a plastic bag was shown to be effective in lessening the degree of pain in postarthroscopy patients. The pain score of the experimental group decreased from 5·12–1·82 after cryotherapy, representing a significant decrease, while the pain score in the control group decreased from 4·04–2·88 (p = 0·047, 0·012 and 0·005).

Conclusions.

Cryotherapy with ice in a plastic bag can be applied in standard protocols for patients who have just undergone arthroscopic surgery.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Cryotherapy with ice in a plastic bag is a simple, readily attainable and cost-effective technique for relieving postarthroscopy pain. We recommend that it be included in standard treatment protocols. Techniques for cryotherapy should be incorporated into in-service education.

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