What is a nucleoplasty, and when is it used?

Nucleoplasty is a way to remove herniated disc material from between the vertebral bones of the spine. It's considered a minimally invasive operation. Only a small incision is needed. A long needle is then inserted through the skin to the disc.

Radio wave signals are sent into the center (nucleus) of the herniated disc. The radio waves produce a low-temperature gas that breaks up bonds in the nucleus. This forms open channels in the disc. The disc material that is dislodged to form the channels is then removed through the needle.

Removing the nucleus relieves pressure on the outer portion of the disc. The bulge goes down so that the disc no longer irritates the nearby nerve root.

Patients with low back pain that goes down the leg seem to get the best results with nucleoplasty. The back pain may not go away but the leg pain seems to respond in many cases.