Back Surgery

Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET)
One of the newest and least invasive therapies for low back pain involves inserting a heating wire through a small incision in the back and into a disc. An electrical current is then passed through the wire to strengthen the collagen fibers that hold the disc together. This back surgery is done on an outpatient basis, often under local anesthesia. The usefulness of IDET, however, is debatable, and further studies on its effectiveness are needed.
Spinal Fusion
When the degenerated disc is extremely painful, the surgeon may recommend removing it and fusing the disc to help with the pain. This fusion can be done through the abdomen (stomach) in a type of back surgery known as anterior lumbar interbody fusion, or through the back in a procedure called posterior fusion. Theoretically, fusion surgery should eliminate the source of pain. This back surgery is successful in about 60 to 70 percent of cases, and fusion for low back pain or any spinal surgeries should only be done as a last resort, and the person should be fully informed of risks.
Disc Replacement
When a disc is herniated, one alternative to a discectomy -- in which the disc is simply removed -- is removing it and replacing it with a synthetic or artificial disc. Replacing the damaged one with an artificial one restores disc height and movement between the vertebrae. Artificial discs come in several designs. Although doctors in Europe have performed this type of back surgery for more than a decade, the procedure had only been experimental in the United States until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Charité artificial disc.

(Click Artificial Discs and Back Surgery for more information.)
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