The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


I have been told that I need an IDET procedure. Can you explain what it is?

IDET is an acronym for Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy. It can cure back pain due to degenerate discs and is an alternative to more major fusion surgery.

Before considering IDET treatment, a discogram is done to identify the cause of the pain. In the discogram test, dye is injected into several discs. If the discogram is positive, and locates the discs that cause the pain, either an IDET treatment or a lumbar fusion may be recommended.

In the IDET procedure, a fine needle is placed in the painful disc. An electrical probe is then passed through the needle and placed against the damaged part of the disc’s covering. The probe is then heated. It is thought that the heat seals cracks in the disc and deadens painful nerve endings. A recent research study performed in Texas showed a “moderate” benefit in certain carefully selected patients. Another recent study from Australia, however, did not confirm that the IDET was helpful. Fusions have a higher likelihood of success but are also risky.

Like any other surgery, consider the risks and benefits carefully. IDET is not for everyone. It does not cure mechanical problems such as instability. It is not a replacement for common sense treatments like regular exercise, weight loss, and therapy. IDET could be helpful for some with chronic back pain, who have failed other treatments, and who want to avoid a lumber fusion.



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Last modified: 07/27/08