Mr Ben Okafor FRCS (Orth.)

Consultant Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgeon

What is nucleoplasty?

Nucleoplasty is an minimally invasive procedure (one which doesn't require a large incision) for treating back and leg symptoms related to a contained herniated disc. Normally, the disc functions as a shock absorber between the vertebra of the spine. A herniation is a defect or weakness in the wall, which can lead to pressure and irritation of sensitive nerve roots and pain receptors in the back.

Who sort of patients are suitable for it?

You would be a candidate for nucleoplasty if your back pain (or combined back and leg symptoms) didn't improve after an appropriate trial of conservative therapy, such as rest, pain medication and physical therapy.

If your pain is as a result of other symptoms - advanced degenerative disc disease (disc arthritis), very large disc herniations, bony arthritis, spinal fracture or tumor, then nucleoplasty wouldn't be appropriate for you.

How does nucleoplasty work?

Nucleoplasty works by utilizing a device called the Perc-D™ Spine Wand. The wand is passed through a thin 'introducer' needle into the centre of the disc, called the nucleus. When the proper position is confirmed by x-ray, the Spine Wand is used to perform two separate tasks. First, it creates a channel, removing tissue through coblation technology, and then it heats and shrinks the tissue through coagulation. This decompresses the disc, reducing the pressure both inside the disc and on nerve roots.

What is coblation technology?

Coblation technology is a well-established technique of soft tissue removal. The tissue is vaporized and allows for the very precise elimination of tissue, without the usual pain and inflammation associated with heat source ablation devices, such as laser. This technology has been used safely and effectively well over 1 million times, primarily in orthopaedic arthroscopy.

How long does the nucleoplasty procedure take?

The procedure itself takes only 20-30 minutes in total, including the sterile preparation and sterile draping.

What is the recovery like after the procedure?

Expect at least a day or two in bed, followed by limited activity for a few weeks. Return to work depends upon the type of work that you perform. You may be able to return to a sedentary-type job within that period. It could be 6-12 weeks for a strenuous physical job. A spine corset can help to reduce discomfort.

You may experience back and leg pain following nucleoplasty, but this should decrease over the following weeks. Expect up 3 months for majority of symptoms to settle.

Return to treatments and operations





020 8709 7878