Chronic back pain treatment blocks nerve signals with heat

Persistent lower back pain is a debilitating problem for millions of people around the world, and it’s not something that is easily treated. A technology called Intracept is making waves in this space, carefully delivering heat to affected vertebra to silence nerve signals and keep chronic pain at bay.

Intracept was developed by medical firm Relievant Medsystems and is based on a minimally invasive procedure that tackles a common source of lower back pain emanating from the vertebra. This type of pain is transmitted through the basivertebral nerve that runs through the vertebrae, including the vertebral endplates and pieces of cartilage and bone in between the disks.

With the patient under anesthesia, the technique involves inserting a small probe into the impacted vertebra and using radio-frequency ablation to heat up the basivertebral nerve. This prevents it from relaying pain signals to the spinal cord and onward to the brain, with the whole procedure taking about an hour.

The Intracept technology received FDA clearance back in 2016 and has gone on to show promise in a series of clinical trials. One involving 140 patients found 31% of them were pain-free 24 months after the treatment. Another involving 48 patients saw 69% of them report a 50% reduction in pain, and 38% of them reported being entirely pain-free after 12 months.

Another trial found 34% pf patients to be pain-free five years after the treatment. Relievant Medsystems says the long-lasting relief offered by Intracept is a result of the unique nature of the basivertebral nerve, which differs from other nerves in that it has shown no ability to regain its pain-transmitting abilities.

Intracept’s pain-relieving potential has seen physicians adopt the technology at different medical centers around the US, including more recently spine specialists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who began treating patients with it earlier this year.

“Before this treatment was available, it was a challenge to provide a solid treatment option for my patients who suffered from chronic back pain from degenerative endplates,” said Ankit Patel, Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.. “Basivertebral nerve ablation is a unique and promising intervention that I am excited to offer to many of my patients. Intracept can help my patients to obtain a better quality of life, reduce use of pain medications, and avoid corrective spine surgery.”

Patel and his colleagues plan to carry out further research on the technique as they implement it to improve its ability to relieve back pain in chronic sufferers.

Source: UT Southwestern

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