Research Article| Volume 58, ISSUE 4, P608-612, April 2023

Cost and outcomes of intercostal nerve cryoablation versus thoracic epidural following the Nuss procedure

Published:December 22, 2022DOI:


      • Pain control is the main issue in the postoperative course of patients undergoing the Nuss procedure for pectus excavatum.
      • Compared to thoracic epidural, intercostal nerve cryoablation was associated with lower opioid use and shorter length of stay.
      • Intercostal nerve cryoablation is associated with increased operative time and increased hospitalization cost.



      Pectus excavatum is the most common congenital chest wall abnormality, with the Nuss procedure being the most commonly performed repair. Pain control is the predominant factor in the postoperative treatment of these patients. This study aims to compare the cost and outcomes of intercostal nerve cryoablation (INC) and thoracic epidural (TE) in patients undergoing the Nuss procedure.


      A retrospective chart review was conducted at our institution for all patients who underwent the Nuss procedure for pectus excavatum from 2002 to 2020. Patients were stratified by pain management strategy, INC vs. TE. Chi-square and Fisher's exact were used to compare categorical variables. Wilcoxon tests were used to evaluate continuous variables and costs.


      A total of 158 patients were identified. Of these, 80.4% (N = 127) were treated with epidural, while 19.6% (N = 31) were treated with intercostal nerve cryoablation. The INC group had lower rates of PCA use (35.5% vs. 93.7%, p < 0.001), lower total morphine milligram equivalent requirement (27.0 vs. 290.8, p < 0.001), and shorter length of stay (3.2 days vs. 5.3 days, p < 0.001) compared to the TE group. INC was also associated with longer operative times (153.0 min vs. 89.0 min, p < 0.001). The total hospitalization cost for the INC group was higher compared to the TE group ($24,742.5 vs $21,621.9, p = 0.001).


      In patients undergoing the Nuss procedure, compared to thoracic epidural, INC was associated with lower opioid use and shorter length of stay but at the cost of longer operative time and increased hospitalization cost.

      Level of evidence

      Treatment Study, Level III.



      BMI (Body Mass Index), IQR (Interquartile Range), INC (Intercostal Nerve Cryoablation), MME (Morphine Milligram Equivalent), PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia), TE (Thoracic epidural)
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