Robert’s story: iovera° makes ‘huge difference’ after knee surgery

Monday, January 6, 2020

By: Alysha Schertz

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Robert Rugg

Two knees, two surgeries, one big difference.


Robert Rugg had two total knee replacements at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. His left knee was done first. A year later, his right knee was replaced.


Robert, who is in his 60s, is an avid golfer. He lives in Upper Michigan and spends his winters in Florida with his wife. After the first knee surgery, it took Robert five months to feel comfortable walking or moving it without pain, he says.


“With my right knee, it was about one month later, and I had no pain at all. Actually, from the day they did the surgery, I had no pain,” Robert says. “I had the (second knee) surgery on September 25 and I was golfing by November 1.”


The difference? iovera°.


iovera° is an FDA-cleared system that uses controlled doses of intense cold as a nerve block. Treatments are delivered through a portable, handheld device and are done about a week before any surgical procedures to reduce pain and ease recovery after surgery.



Aurora BayCare Medical Center was the first facility in Wisconsin to begin offering the treatment a little more than two years ago, says Dr. Michael Schnaubelt, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic.


“It’s a cryotherapy meant to diminish the amount of pain patients have with knee replacements,” Schnaubelt says. “It lasts anywhere from three to four months, and studies have shown it also decreases the amount of pain medications patients need after surgery by 50 percent.”


For the iovera° procedure, a needle is attached to a nitrous oxide cannister inside the device, Schnaubelt says, so it gets very cold.


“We don’t actually inject anything. There’s no medication so there’s very little reaction to the tissue and very few side effects,” Schnaubelt says. “The procedure effectively freezes – causes a temporary injury to – the nerve, disabling the ability to send pain signals to the brain.”


The nerve treated during the procedure does not affect muscle or strength. “It’s purely just sensation,” he says.


“Patients are able to handle physical therapy a lot better because they aren’t feeling any pain. They recover more quickly, and we’ve seen patients go back to work sooner after this procedure as well,” Schnaubelt says.


During the iovera° procedure, the handheld device is used to target the common sensory nerves above and below the knee that supply pain. Studies indicate patients can experience the pain-free benefits of the procedure for three to four months, Schnaubelt says.


Dr. Michael Schnaubelt and Robert Rugg


iovera° made a huge difference, Robert says.


“The second time around I went to two therapy sessions. That was it,” Robert says. “With the first (knee replacement), I had like four months of therapy and five or six months before I had no more pain.”


Robert is a perfect example of the effectiveness of iovera°, Schnaubelt says.


“I’ve had several patients where I did their first knee replacement prior to us using this treatment and the second one after,” Schnaubelt says.  “Almost every patient like that has said that the second knee was so much easier to recover from and was much less painful.”


Before the surgeries, it was difficult for Robert to walk. He had to lean on a cart while shopping at the grocery store and could barely walk from his cart to his ball while playing golf.


“Now, if I want to, I can actually walk the whole 18-hole course,” Robert says. “I can ride a bike now, which I haven’t ever been able to do. My wife and I spend the winters in Florida and now we can go for walks every morning. I can walk the beaches now. It’s a totally different life.”


Dr. Michael Schnaubelt sees patients in Green Bay and Shawano. To request an appointment, call 920-288-5555 in Green Bay or 877-844-8796 in Shawano or do so online.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.