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How Electrothermal Catheter Therapy Works


Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

Low back and leg pain is often due to damage to one or more of the disks between the vertebrae. Electrothermal therapy uses heat to change the structure of the tissue inside the disk. It doesn't relieve pain right away. Pain is reduced as the disk heals. After healing, the disk may also be stronger and more stable than before.

The catheter is threaded through a needle into the disk.

Inside the Disk

First, a needle is inserted into the disk. Then a special catheter (a flexible wire) is threaded through the needle, so that it curves around the inside of the disk. When the catheter is in place, part of it is next to the damage in the disk.

The catheter heats the disk, causing changes in the disk material.

Heating the Disk

Once the catheter is in place, it is heated gradually to a high temperature. The catheter is kept at that temperature for a few minutes. Then it is removed. The heat may kill nerves in the disk, preventing these nerves from causing pain. The heat may also make the disk shrink. This may mean that the disk no longer presses on nerves. The heated tissue will slowly heal over the next few months and form scar tissue. This scar tissue may:

 Plug any leak in the disk.

 Make the disk stronger.

Risks and Complications

The risks and complications of electrothermal catheter therapy include:


 Spinal fluid leak


 Nerve damage

 Worsened pain after recovery

 No improvement of pain


Contact Wisconsin River Orthopaedic Institute at 715.201.3624 for your orthopaedic needs. For your convenience, you can fill out our online Request an Appointment form to book your consultation.

Wisconsin River Orthopaedics
140 24th Street South
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
Phone: 715-201-3624
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