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IDET therapy is a minimally invasive treatment using focal heat to treat the intervertebral disc. With age or injury, cracks or fissures may develop in the wall of the intervertebral disc. The outer fibers are filled with small nerve endings and blood vessels. When there is a tear, these fissures can be a source of debilitating low back pain. The inner disc tissue will frequently herniate into these tears in the outer region of the disc, causing pain within the disc.

In intradiscal electrothermal therapy, a physician applies precisely controlled heat to a broad section of the affected disc wall. Heat contracts and thickens the disc material, resulting in contraction or closure of the disc wall tears and a reduction in the bulge of the inner disc material.

IDET Procedure

The IDET process takes about an hour to complete and is done as follows:

  • The procedure is performed with a local anesthetic and mild intravenous sedation. You will be awake and alert so that your physician can monitor your condition and comfort level.
  • A hollow needle is inserted into the painful lumbar disc space. Needle positioning is monitored and guided by x-ray.
  • An electrothermal catheter is passed through the needle along the back inner wall of the disc.
  • The catheter tip is slowly heated to 190 °F for 15-17 minutes.
  • The heat contracts and thickens the collagen fibers which make up the disc wall. This promotes closure of tears and cracks. Painful nerve endings within these tears are cauterized.
  • Once the therapy is completed, the catheter and needle are removed. You will likely be sent home with a Band-Aid over the needle insertion site.

Discomfort from the disc being heated may take several days to subside, and your physician may prescribe medication. Your disc will heal in the 8 to16 weeks following the procedure. During this time, it is very important to treat your discs with care. Your physician may prescribe temporary lumbar support as well as activity and physical rehabilitation guidelines. Patients report that during this healing time they begin to experience relief from their lower back pain symptoms, decreased or eliminate medication use, and increase their functional abilities.

In a study of 700 patients, nearly 80% enjoyed reduced pain and greater mobility. Half of those patients taking narcotic pain-killers were able to discontinue using these medicines.


IDET therapy, like any surgical procedure, has some risks. Not all patients will find relief for their back pain and symptoms may recur over time. Please consult your physician about the risks and potential complications of IDET therapy. Many additional factors may prevent your physician from recommending IDET therapy for your condition. Such factors may include, but are not limited to, very narrow disc height, severe disc herniation, spinal instability, advanced stages of disc degeneration, or various general health concerns. Patients should openly discuss treatment expectations with their physician to ensure that IDET is appropriate for their particular condition.

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