Risk factors for failure and complications of intradiscal electrothermal therapy: A pilot study

Steven P. Cohen, Thomas Larkin, Salahadin Abdi, Audrey Chang, Milan Stojanovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Study Design. A bi-institutional, retrospective clinical data analysis. Objectives. To determine risk factors for failure and complications of intradiscal electrothermal therapy, a treatment for discogenic back pain. Summary of the Background Data. Intradiscal electrothermal therapy is a relatively new treatment for discogenic back pain. Though previous studies have shown it to be an effective treatment, there are few published studies examining complications and none examining risk factors for failure. Methods. The authors treated 79 patients with discogenic back pain using intradiscal electrothermal therapy. Complications were assessed by patient report and, when indicated, further diagnostic testing. Success or failure was determined by visual analogue pain scores at 6-month follow-up. Variables examined for their relationship to failure and complications were age, sex, duration of pain, number of levels heated, smoking history, diabetes, obesity, leg pain, and previous back surgery. Results. Forty-eight percent of patients reported more than 50% pain relief at their 6-month follow-up. There were eight complications (10%), most of which were selflimited and transient. The only risk factor associated with intradiscal electrothermal therapy failure was obesity (P = 0.01). Whereas 54% of nonobese patients reported good pain relief at 6 months, only one out of 10 obese patients had successful intradiscal electrothermal therapy. The obese patients in our study were more likely to have a complication from intradiscal electrothermal therapy than they were to obtain pain relief. Conclusion. The only risk factor found to be associated with IDET outcome was obesity, which was a strong predictor of failure. Obesity should be considered a relative contraindication to performing IDET.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1147
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Back pain
  • Discogenic pain
  • Discography
  • Internal disc disruption
  • Intradiscal electrothermal therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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