IDET Beats Fake TreatmentIn 1997, a new treatment for disc pain in the low back was developed called intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET). In IDET, a flexible electrode is inserted into the inner disc and heated to around 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
IDET has been around long enough to find out if it works. Is it better than a rehab program? Is it just a placebo effect (meaning the patient would get just as much relief with a pretend treatment)? Researchers at the Texas Spine and Joint Hospital took a look at IDET compared with a placebo.
Thirty-seven patients with low back pain from a disc problem were treated with IDET. A second group with 27 patients thought they were getting IDET, but once the needle was placed inside the disc, no heat was applied. Both groups were monitored afterwards by a physical therapist. Everyone wore a lumbar corset for six weeks. All patients in both groups started special exercises after six weeks. The exercises were done for six weeks, until week 12 of the study.
Both groups got better after treatment. However the IDET group had better results than the sham group. In the IDET group 40 percent of the patients got at least 50 percent better. Patients with poor physical function and with greater disability did best with IDET treatment. Healthier and less disabled patients had equal results with IDET versus the sham treatment.
This study confirms a finding from another study. The results at six months after IDET were stable. The patients with pain relief continued to have good results after 12 and 24 months, too. The authors conclude that the benefits of IDET are more than just a placebo effect. Only patients with a posterior tear of the inner disc were included in this study. Therefore the authors say the results can only be applied to this particular type of disc lesion.
Kevin J. Pauza, MD, et al. A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy for the Treatment of Discogenic Low Back Pain. In The Spine Journal. January/February 2004. Vol. 4. No. 1. Pp. 27-35.
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