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.
How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound produces several therapeutic effects that are being evaluated. One mechanism is the precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue), enabling the nerves causing pain from disc degeneration to be diminished without surgery. A second use of focused ultrasound is to heat a probe that will shrink the size of a displaced intravertebral disc. A third mechanism is to have focused ultrasound release drugs from nanoparticles that will degrade the ruptured intravertebral disc. A fourth mechanism is to use focused ultrasound to degrade the dysfunctional disc so it can be aspirated with a fine needle. After it has been removed, an injection of biomaterial can be accomplished.
While there has been preclinical investigation of focused ultrasound to treat the aberrant discs, additional research is needed before this would be available for clinical use.
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 – such as surgical wound healing or infection – at a lower cost. Focused ultrasound can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue, and 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.
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