Disc Nucleoplasty

Posted June, 2008

For those patients who have experienced a "slipped disc," they may be a candidate for DISC Nucleoplasty®. The key to a good success rate here is proper selection of the patient. Selection is based on the condition of the herniated disc and other related medical factors. Dr. Robb will examine the medical history and radiological studies of each patient with such disc problems to determine if they could benefit from this technique. For those who are appropriate candidates, this procedure can provide relief from leg and back pain caused by a disc protrusion or herniation.

Nucleoplasty works in a surprisingly simple fashion. The doctor prepares the insertion zone, and then carefully guides a special probe into the core of the disc. The probe's tip generates a plasma field that vaporizes portions of the disc's jelly-like nucleus. As the disc becomes smaller (due to it now having less tissue inside it) there's room for the bulge to recede (or to be pushed back).

You can visualize this by thinking of something like vaporizing gelatin from inside a balloon that's been packed with Jello®. Once the inner material is smaller, it allows the balloon to fit into a smaller space. The balloon's volume shrinks according to the amount of inner contents that the doctor "ablates." The tough and rubbery spinal disc (which has a fairly soft central core) behaves in almost exactly the same way as a tough rubber balloon that's been filled with Jello.

The biggest benefit of Nucleoplasty is that it's minimally invasive. It's not as medically stressful as an open surgical back operation. That means there's no sutures to heal (or to get infected) and much less overall pain as a result of the procedure itself. A patient can usually be back at work within three days so long as their job isn't physically demanding. It has about an eighty percent success rate, too. This may be higher than certain open surgical procedures designed to treat the same types of disc defects.

The main limitation of DISC Nucleoplasty is that not every patient is a good candidate for it. Proper diagnosis is critically important in selecting whether it's the right procedure for your problem. That's why Dr. Robb will carefully examine all candidates and their radiological studies for such consideration. Only those best-suited to the procedure should have it performed. Only a physician with a solid understanding of what insures an optimal result and with years of experience treating disc-caused pain should make the decision to employ (or not employ) DISC Nucleoplasty.

If you suffer from back pain (perhaps with concurrent leg pain) and have been previously diagnosed as having a herniated or "slipped" disc, you should discuss DISC Nucleoplasty with our office before undergoing open surgical procedures.