Intradiscal electrothermal therapy, percutaneous discectomy, and nucleoplasty: what is the current evidence?

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2008 Jan;12(1):14-21. doi: 10.1007/s11916-008-0004-7.


Over the past decade, there has been a surge of minimally invasive techniques aimed at treating both discogenic low back pain (LBP) and radicular pain. This article assesses the current evidence for three such treatments: intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET), percutaneous discectomy, and nucleoplasty. An electronic search of the literature carried out using the Cochrane Library database (2007) and Medline (1966-2007) identified 77 references relating to IDET, 363 to percutaneous discectomy, and 36 to nucleoplasty. Two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessed the effectiveness of IDET; one demonstrated a positive effect on pain severity only, whereas the other demonstrated no substantial benefit. Other RCTs show that percutaneous intradiscal radiofrequency thermocoagulation is ineffective for the treatment of discogenic LBP. Trials of automated percutaneous discectomy suggest that clinical outcomes after treatment are at best fair and often worse when compared with microdiscectomy. There are no published RCTs assessing Coblation (ArthroCare Spine, Stockholm, Sweden) technology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diskectomy, Percutaneous*
  • Electrocoagulation*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc* / surgery
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Low Back Pain / therapy
  • Radiculopathy / etiology
  • Radiculopathy / therapy
  • Spinal Diseases / complications
  • Spinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome