Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) for the treatment of discogenic low back pain: patient selection and indications for use

Pain Physician. 2008 Sep-Oct;11(5):659-68.


Discogenic low back pain resulting from internal disc disruption can be severely disabling, clinically challenging, and expensive to treat. Previously, when conservative care had been exhausted, open surgical intervention such as spinal fusion or artificial disc replacement was the only treatment option for these patients. Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET), a minimally-invasive technique performed in the outpatient setting, offers an intermediate intervention between conservative care and surgery. Specific selection criteria have been refined that identify patients for treatment with IDET, ensuring maximal clinical benefit and appropriate use of healthcare resources. Indications for use were developed from review of selection criteria from published clinical reports and review articles of IDET, and further refined by identifying components with the strongest positive predictive value and by direct physician feedback. Final indications for use consist of clinical and imaging criteria. There are 5 compulsory indications for use: 1) persistent axial low back pain +/- leg pain and non-responsive to > or = 6 weeks of conservative care; 2) history consistent with discogenic low back pain without marked lower extremity neurological deficit; 3) one to 3 desiccated discs with or without small, contained herniated nucleus pulposus by T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, with at least 50% remaining disc height; 4) concordant pain provocation by low pressure (< 50 psi above opening pressure) discography; and, 5) posterior annular disruption by post-discography computed tomography. Using these patient selection characteristics, approximately 3 of 4 IDET-treated patients should achieve a minimal clinically important improvement in pain and disability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / innervation
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiopathology*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*