Military Reports on the Use of IDET for Disc ProblemsNo one needs to get workers back on the job faster than the United States Army. About 80 percent of civilians have back pain at some point in their lives. It's likely that soldiers have just as many episodes of low back pain as civilians. There aren't very many military studies that show that for sure yet.
Disc problems account for most of the chronic low back pain (LBP) reported. Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) is a fairly new way to treat disc disease. Heat is applied directly to the disc to shrink it or even destroy it.
IDET was used on 36 active duty soldiers to treat chronic disc-related LBP. The authors think the military is an ideal place to study the results of IDET. Soldiers all have the same 100 percent insurance coverage, so treatments are usually similar for everyone. And there's no need for insurance approval once treatment has been prescribed. The soldiers must follow the program as prescribed. They aren't under pressure to return to work too soon in order to get a paycheck.
Almost half the soldiers had 50 percent or better reduction in pain after IDET. Most had only one IDET session. A smaller number had two trials of IDET. A few had a level above or below the original disc problem also treated with IDET. Quite a few soldiers (19 percent) said their symptoms were actually worse than before IDET. Overall 68 percent of the soldiers would have IDET again if they knew ahead of time what the result would be.
From a military point of view, the authors report that some improvement is better than none. Soldiers didn't have to have 50 percent or higher improvement to consider IDET a success. Less pain means more function and earlier return to active duty.
These researchers suggest IDET may be a middle step for patients who have tried drugs and physical therapy and don't want more invasive surgery. In the military, even getting a small number of soldiers back to duty is important. IDET is worth trying if it can help keep soldiers healthy and avoid medical discharge. The authors also note that soldiers who don't get pain relief with IDET can still have surgery later and get good results.
Brett A. Freedman, CPT, MC, et al. Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET) for Chronic Low Back Pain in Active-Duty Soldiers: 2-Year Follow-up. In The Spine Journal. November/December 2003. Vol. 3. No. 6. Pp. 502-509.
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