Introduction: Oxygen-ozone nucleolysis (ONL) is a new, minimally invasive procedure for the treatment of discogenic low back pain with or without radicular symptoms. The aim of the present study was to determine associations between the morphology of the basic disease, patient-specific factors and the outcome of the treatment.
Materials and methods: Six hundred and twelve patients not responding to conservative therapy were divided into five groups (disc bulging, disc herniation, postoperative patients, osteochondrosis, others) and subjected to nucleolysis with ozone and to periradicular infiltration with steroids and local anaesthesia. The success of treatment was assessed by means of a visual analog pain scale (VAS) and the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI).
Result: A significant reduction in the VAS was registered after 2 and 6 months (from 8.6 to 5.4 and 6.0; p < 0.001) in all patient groups; an excellent therapy response (VAS below 3.0) was achieved by about a third of the patients. A significant improvement in ODI was registered in all patients (46 to 31; p < 0.001), most pronounced in the herniation group (25.5, p = 0.015). Patients below 50 years had significantly better values in the VAS and ODI score 6 months after treatment. Final VAS and ODI scores for patients with a single diseased segment were 4.2 and 28.0, in two affected segments 6.5 and 32 and in three segments 6.7 and 38.5 (p < 0.001 and p = 0.051).
Conclusion: ONL with periradicular steroid therapy might exert a functional and sustained analgesic effect in patients with degenerative changes in the lumbar spine not responding to conservative therapy and was most effective below 50 years with disc herniation in one segment.