Low back and leg pain is often because of damage to one or more of the disks between the vertebrae. Electrothermal therapy, also known as intradiscal electrothermal therapy, uses heat to change the structure of the tissue inside the disk. It doesn’t relieve pain right away. Pain is reduced as the disk heals. After healing, the disk may also be stronger and more stable than before.
First, a needle is inserted into the disk. Then a special flexible wire (catheter) is threaded through the needle, so that it curves around the inside of the disk. When the catheter is in place, part of it is next to the damage in the disk.
Once the catheter is in place, it is heated gradually to a high temperature. The catheter is kept at that temperature for a few minutes. Then it is removed. The heat may deaden nerves in the disk, preventing these nerves from causing pain. The heat may also make the disk shrink. This may mean that the disk no longer presses on nerves. The heated tissue will slowly heal over the next few months and form scar tissue. This scar tissue may:
Plug any leak in the disk.
Make the disk stronger.
The risks and complications of electrothermal catheter therapy include:
Spinal fluid leak
Worsened pain after recovery
No improvement of pain