Background: Degeneration of the intervertebral disc can be the source of severe low back pain. Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) is a minimally invasive treatment option for patients with symptomatic internal disc disruption nonresponsive to conservative medical care.
Methods: Using MRI and discographic findings, 50 patients with lumbar discogenic pain were identified, underwent IDET treatment and were followed for 24 months. Outcomes included assessments of back pain severity by an 11-point numeric scale and back function by the Oswestry disability index (ODI).
Findings: There was an average 68 and 66% improvement in pain and ODI, respectively, between pre-treatment and 24 months (p < 0.0001 for both comparisons). The global clinical success rate was 78% (39 of 50). Clinical success was associated with discographic concordance (p < 0.0001), HIZ (p = 0.003), Pfirrmann grade (p = 0.0002), and percent annulus coverage (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that durable clinical improvements can be realized after IDET in highly selected patients with mild disc degeneration, confirmatory imaging evidence of annular disruption and concordant pain provocation by low pressure discography.