What is Nucleoplasty?

Nucleoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical technique for decompression of painful lumbar (lower Back) discs.

How does Nucleoplasty work?

Nucleoplasty involves the placement of a wire into the symptomatic disc through a needle. Radiofrequency energy is used to ablate (surgically destroy) tissue inside the nucleus o the disc. Decompression occurs as the disc contracts. Contraction of the disc results in retraction of the disc bulge or herniation.

Which patients are candidates for Nucleoplasty?

  1. The presence of lower back pain, lower back pain with radiation into the extremities, or extremity pain that is likely secondary to a disc source.
  2. Patients should have objective evidence supporting a disc as a potential pain generator. Evidence may include an MRI scan, DT scan, discography. Your doctor will determine which studies are necessary before this procedure can be performed.
  3. Patients should have tried conservative therapies including medical management,, physical therapy, epidural steroid infections.

Where is the procedure performed?

Nucleoplasty is performed in a hospital or surgery center under intravenous sedation.

Are there any risks or side effects?

There are few risks associated with Nucleoplasty. Performed under strict sterile conditions, the risk of infection is minimal and patients receive antibiotics. Nerve root injury is avoided with careful needle placement under x-ray, and monitoring the patient for discomfort. The risks of infection, nerve root injury and those associated with sedation are much lower than open surgical procedures on the spine. Patients usually have some injection site tenderness that lasts up to one week and are given narcotic medications over this time.

How long does it take to work?

In most cases, patients experience pain reduction in about two to four weeks. Patients who have lower back and extremity pain usually feel relief in the extremity first.

What is the recovery process?

Patients are encouraged to rest for the first few days following this procedure and should begin light walking after about five days. Patients should be off of work for at least one week following this procedure. Patients should avoid chiropractic manipulation, massage, and traction in the first two weeks following this procedure. Most people return to work for sedentary or light duty within one to two weeks. Patients that perform medium or greater work (frequently carrying objects weighing more than ten pounds, occasionally carrying or lifting objects weighing greater than 25 pounds) will need physical therapy to achieve these goals.

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