Ice Machine after Surgery

Ice machines after knee or shoulder surgery are becoming more popular due to increasing evidence that they significantly reduce pain postoperatively. Cryotherapy is a term referring to the use of cold water or ice to reduce pain and inflammation. Cold temperatures, reduce the body’s inflammatory response, which intern, decreases pain. This is why it is common for people to ice extremities after an injury, and also why cold therapy/cryotherapy is extremely beneficial after surgical procedures. Studies have shown that cold therapy after knee, arthroscopy or shoulder arthroscopy can reduce pain by up to 50%, and in some cases reduce consumption of opioids by up to 70%! For this reason, when used in conjunction with multi modal, pain control, cryotherapy should absolutely be part of the postoperative pain control regimen for knee, arthroscopy, and shoulder arthroscopy. 

There are many options to implement cryotherapy. The simplest option is to fill a plastic bag with ice, and place it Over the postsurgical area. The advantages of this are that it is inexpensive and readily available to all. However, the downsides are that if not done properly, it can lead to frostbite of the skin, and it can be difficult to keep the ice positioned on the extremity without the constant need for readjusting and re-securing The bag. Not to mention the sweating of the ice bag which can drench postoperative dressings and clothes.

A different and, in my opinion, a better option are the cryotherapy cuffs that can be purchased at various medical supply, stores or online. There are many different kinds, and brands, however, they all share a common principal. Typically, a cooler house is ice, water, and continuously circulates the cold water around the postoperative extremity. The advantage of this method is that they typically fit much more comfortably, and do not slide off the extremity, are less likely to cause frostbite, do not sweat as badly, and overall make for a much more user-friendly and comfortable experience. The downside to them is that they typically can be expensive and some of them are bulky.

In my experience, ice therapy/cryotherapy machines are one of the best additions you could make to your postoperative pain control regimen. In my opinion, the easiest to use and most effective machines on the market are the Active Ice and the Vive units

William Ashford, MD

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