Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET)

IDET, or Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy, is a procedure that treats discogenic back pain, which is back pain primarily caused by discs, and not the other spinal components. IDET uses a probe inserted into the disc to heat the tissues within the affected disc. Heating the inside of the disc causes the tissues to shrink, making  the disc less protruded.  It also cauterizes, or burns, the small nerve fibers in the periphery of the disc for pain relief. For more information, go to


When is IDET an appropriate procedure?

  • Back pain for at least 3 months
  • No prior spine surgery at the affected level
  • Abnormal disc seen on MRI
  • Positive (concordant) discogram

How is IDET performed?

IDET is performed as an outpatient procedure. Using x-ray to guide the small probe into proper position, the IDET probe is place into the affected disc. Once positioned, the probe is slowly heated to about 90 degrees Celsius. It is maintained at this temperature for about five minutes. Then the heating continues at a lower temperature. After the IDET is completed, the patient is monitored for a period of one or two hours. The patient is then sent home with instructions to rest and to avoid lifting, twisting, and bending.

How long is the recovery from IDET?

Patients often have mild pain for the first day or two following an IDET procedure. The symptoms are usually easily controlled with mild anti-inflammatory or pain medications. Improvement is commonly seen about 2-3 weeks after the procedure, but may take as long as 10-12 weeks, and rehabilitation exercises are started 8- 12 weeks after the IDET.

How well does IDET work?

The results of studies show encouraging results for IDET. The most important aspect is ensuring the right patients are being selected for this treatment. Patients must fit the criteria as mentioned above in order to have the best chance at success. IDET is a minimally invasive safe procedure with few reported complications. Most studies show about 60-80% of patients find significant improvement in the months following an IDET procedure, but if candidate are chosen carefully, the results could be much better.