Interventional spine specialist Sairam Atluri, MD, who is part of the Mercy Health network of doctors, recently started performing a procedure newly available at Mercy Health - Eastgate Surgery Center. The minimally invasive Intracept procedure can provide relief to patients experiencing chronic lower back pain when other treatments have failed.

Finding the cause of chronic low back pain can be tricky. Doctors often target herniated spinal discs as the culprits in aggravating nearby nerves. However, when treatments aimed at treating pain presumably caused by discs don’t alleviate the pain, patients can find themselves with few options for relief.

Research has found that the tops and bottoms of the vertebrae, known as endplates, are more supplied with nerves than spinal discs. Those nerves link back to the basivertebral nerve (BVN) that runs through the front of the vertebrae. When the endplates degenerate or become damaged, inflammation results, irritating the BVN and causing chronic low back pain.

With the Intracept procedure, Dr. Atluri, guided by medical imaging, can reach the main stem of the BVN with a small probe that uses heat to zap the nerve that is sending pain signals to the brain. Patients undergoing the Intracept procedure report long lasting improvements in both their pain and disability levels.

“A tiny mesh of nerves is responsible for the pain coming from the patient’s disc and vertebral body. Ablating these nerves takes away the source of pain and the patient experiences no numbness, tingling or weakness afterward. Because we don’t touch the main nerve, the patient doesn’t experience any loss of function,” says Dr. Atluri.

Patient Karen Blom had experienced lower back pain for four years, undergoing MRIs, steroid shots, an operation to repair a herniated disc and balance therapy in a bid to find relief. The pain remained and it impacted her ability to stand, sit and sleep comfortably. Just two weeks after her procedure with Dr. Atluri, Blom has noticed a big difference. 

“Since he’s operated, the pain at the sides of my back are gone and so is the sciatica. I can only stand for small amounts of time but there’s no pain when I am sitting or trying to sleep,” she says. “I’m very, very happy.”

The location of the pain and an MRI help Dr. Atluri determine which patients are candidates for the outpatient procedure, which takes one to two hours and is performed under anesthesia. Patients may experience soreness for up to two weeks following treatment.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 513-624-7525.