Nucleoplasty for sciatica is a minor surgical procedure used specifically for radicular pain syndromes caused by a contained herniated disc. In this minimally invasive technique, the patient is treated as an outpatient and is spared many of the more serious risks of open spinal operations. However, nucleoplasty is not all positive and no negative. The parameters for care are restrictive and only encompass certain types of disc pathologies. Furthermore, while the procedure is minor, it still does demonstrate some dangers, so patients are advised to learn all they can about treatment before deciding if the therapy is right for their needs.
This article provides an up-close look at nucleoplasty and how this innovative surgical technique may be able to cure sciatica expressions caused by intact herniated discs.
Nucleoplasty closely resembles the far more common IDET technique and is used for identical clinical pain profiles. The procedure is the same in that the surgeon will make a small incision near the affected area and insert a thin catheter directly into the contained bulging disc structure.
A small transmitter is then placed into the catheter and radio waves are used to gently break up some of the pressurized material in the nucleus pulposus. This is the soft inner core of the disc which is responsible for creating the bulge in the outer disc wall.
Once enough nucleus material has been treated, the disc should shrink back to its original shape and size, taking pressure off the spinal nerve root implicated in creating the pain. Basically, the size of the herniation is reduced, hopefully eliminating the sciatica symptoms associated with the disc bulge.
As far as surgical solutions for spinal disc-enacted sciatic nerve pain, this one is generally quite good. The operation is well tolerated and has very few risks, although there is the potential for some complications, which should be discussed with your doctor prior to surgery. The most commonly reported problems involving nucleoplasty include poor treatment results, infection, CSF leaks and re-herniation immediately after the procedure.
For indicated disc conditions, nucleoplasty offers acceptable results for resolving sciatica expressions. Remember, most disc conditions are not responsible for causing painful sciatic nerve symptoms and are commonly used as scapegoats to explain otherwise idiopathic back and leg pain. In these cases, the nucleoplasty will only function as a surgical placebo treatment or will be completely ineffectual.
Always demand full neurological evaluation of any suspected compressive neuropathy prior to undergoing any surgical treatment for an intervertebral herniation. If the location and symptoms correlate, then you will improve your chances for a positive result considerably.
I always recommend a minimally invasive procedure, such as nucleoplasty, for indicated patients who have decided that surgery is the right route for them. Nucleoplasty is only used for herniated discs in which the outer disc wall remains completely intact and free from annular tears. Other types of disc pathologies will not statistically respond well to treatment.
If you do decide on nucleoplasty, make sure your surgeon is experienced with the technique, since this will always give you an edge on attaining a positive surgical outcome.
Before undergoing nucleoplasty, I would always recommend investigating spinal decompression, which is a non-surgical sciatica treatment which demonstrates excellent curative statistics for herniated disc patients.
If you have already undergone nucleoplasty or IDET therapy, I would love to hear how the procedure worked for you. Please take the time to share your story on our sciatica forum to help other patients decide if this technique might be right for them, as well.