Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy

Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) is a minimally invasive procedure for treating low back pain occurring as a result of worn spinal discs. IDET is usually performed after discography or other diagnostic testing has verified that the condition can be remedied by the procedure.

Candidates for IDET

Candidates for IDET must be at least 18 years of age and have lower back pain originating in the discs that is exacerbated by sitting. IDET is an appropriate treatment when the back pain has persisted for several months and remains unresponsive after 6 or more weeks of nonsurgical treatment methods.

The IDET Procedure

IDET is performed under a combination of sedation and local anesthesia. In order to prevent infection, antibiotics are administered, either intravenously or through injection, during the procedure. Fluoroscopy is used to enhance visualization as a catheter and heating device are inserted. The heating device, which reaches roughly 149 degrees Fahrenheit, is placed around the external coating of the disc in order to break down the nerve fibers and strengthen the disc tissue. This process closes any small tears in the region.

Recovery from IDET

For the first few days after IDET, pain may at first increase, but will then subside. To ensure optimal back function, physical therapy will be necessary for a month or two following the procedure. For the first few months after IDET, patients must refrain from bending, sitting for extended periods or lifting heavy objects. Patients are usually advised to wait at least 6 months before resuming strenuous activities.

Risks of IDET

While IDET relatively safe, all such procedures carry some slight risk of complication. In the case of IDET, these risks may include adverse reaction to anesthetic or medication, nerve damage, disc infection, or disc damage.

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