Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is an early-stage, noninvasive, therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with disc degeneration. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets deep in the body without damaging surrounding normal tissue. Where the beams converge, the ultrasound produces precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue) enabling the nerves causing pain from disc degeneration to be diminished without surgery. There may be other causes for disc degeneration, as it is often a combination of factors that results in various symptoms. While there has been preliminary investigation of focused ultrasound to treat the aberrant discs, more recent work has been on treating the arthritis of the facet joint. See “Back Pain” for added discussion on this topic.
The primary options for treatment of disc degeneration include medication and invasive surgery.
For certain patients, focused ultrasound could provide a noninvasive alternative to surgery with less risk of complications and lower cost.
- Focused ultrasound is noninvasive, so it does not carry added concerns like surgical wound healing or infection.
- Focused ultrasound can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue.
- It can be repeated, if necessary.
At the present time, there are no clinical trials recruiting patients for focused ultrasound treatments of disc degeneration.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
Focused ultrasound treatment for disc degeneration is not yet approved by regulatory bodies or covered by medical insurance companies.
Karakitsios I, Mihcin S, Saliev T, Melzer A. Feasibility study of pre-clinical Thiel embalmed human cadaver for MR-guided focused ultrasound of the spine. Minim Invasive Ther Allied Technol. 2016;25(3):154-61. doi: 10.3109/13645706.2016.1150297. Epub 2016 Feb 29.
Weeks EM, Platt MW, Gedroyc W. MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) to treat facet joint osteoarthritis low back pain-case series of an innovative new technique. Eur Radiol. 2012 Dec;22(12):2822-35. Epub 2012 Aug 31.
Forslund C, Persson J, Strömqvist B, Lidgren L, McCarthy ID. Effects of high-intensity focused ultrasound on the intervertebral disc: a potential therapy for disc herniations. J Clin Ultrasound. 2006 Sep;34(7):330-8.
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