Intradiscal electrothermic therapy (IDET) for disc-related low back pain

Picture of intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) catheter and heating element placement

Intradiscal electrothermic therapy (IDET) is a controversial, minimally invasive treatment for chronic low back pain related to a spinal disc.

Before an IDET procedure, you are given a sedative and a local anesthetic. Using "live" X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy), a doctor inserts a hollow needle containing a thin flexible tube (catheter) and heating element into the spinal disc. The catheter is positioned in a circle around the inside of the disc, and is then slowly heated to about 194°F (90°C). The heat is meant to kill the nerve fibers and toughen the disc tissue, sealing any small tears. Antibiotics, either given into a vein (intravenous) or injected into the disc, are used to prevent a disc infection.

Last Updated: February 3, 2010

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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