Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy: A New Procedure for Low Back Pain

Source: WebMD

Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) is a minimally invasive spinal disc treatment to relieve chronic low back pain. It is intended to deal with the type of degenerative disc pain caused by nerve fibers that have abnormally grown in the outer layer of the disc into the interior layer. It may also be helpful in treating injury to the disc that causes the substance in the middle to move to the outer layers where the nerves are located, causing pain and irritation. A patient usually undergoes discography to accurately diagnosis their disc problem before IDET, which involves injecting a dye into the gel-like center of the spinal disc to determine the cause of pain.

Preparing for the Procedure

Before the procedure, patients are given a sedative and a local anesthetic. A physician uses X-ray imaging to insert a needle into the spinal disc that contains a heating element. The tube is placed in the outer layer of the disc in a circle position and slowly heated to approximately 194 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature is designed to destroy the nerve fibers that cause pain and encourage the disc tissue to become tougher to seal any small tears. Finally, antibiotics are administered to the area to prevent a disc infection.

Following the Procedure

Pain relief does not occur immediately after the procedure. It may even increase the first few days afterward. Physical therapy is necessary to reduce pain and heal properly. Patients can expect to walk and perform easy stretches one month after IDET. Within two to three months, patients are directed to exercise moderately and avoid lifting, bending and extended periods of sitting. Approximately five or six months after the procedure, patients can return to running and other strenuous forms of exercise.

The ideal IDET patient is someone who has had chronic low back pain for three to six months despite undergoing nonsurgical treatment. Risks may include disc or nerve damage and disc infection.