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    New Procedure Effective Against Lower Back Pain


    In this study, more than 50 patients with back pain due to internal disc disruption were offered the treatment; in 17 cases their insurance companies refused to pay, so this group received physical rehabilitation and pain-relief medications instead.

    Researchers compared the 35 who received IDTA treatment with the others who didn't. They found that 23 of the patients who received the procedure experienced a significant decrease in pain, compared with only one in the other group. Twelve months later, these patients still felt significantly better. About two-thirds of those who had the procedure experienced some benefit, and nearly one-quarter obtained complete relief of pain.

    This procedure is only suitable for certain patients, the authors emphasize. It is not suitable if there is an extruded, or displaced, disk pressing on a nerve, or when disk heights have decreased. To get such good results, you need doctors with lots of experience in discography. "The two physicians who did these procedures were highly skilled 'needle jockeys,'" says Karasek. "They were very good at placing the needle in the disc and understanding the images they saw."

    "This is valuable research, particularly since lower back pain is one of the most common causes of time lost from work," Miles Day, MD, tells WebMD. "Neurosurgery is expensive and time consuming, and cannot guarantee successful results. This new procedure is not a panacea or silver bullet, but it is a valuable tool." Day is a pain specialist at Texas Tech Medical Center's International Pain Institute and an assistant professor of pain medicine and anesthesiology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock.

    The procedure itself takes only about an hour, under local anesthesia, Day says. Patients should not expect immediate improvement. For the first two weeks after the procedure, the pain may even be worse, because the disk needs time to heal. But over the next several months, the pain should gradually lessen. "I would never say to a patient, 'this will fix all your pain'. I would tell them they may see 25% or 50% improvement," Day says.

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