26 Jul Experimental Gel Could Become New Treatment for DDD
Degenerative disk disease (DDD) affects people all over the world. It is quite painful and, in some cases, even debilitating. Here at Lone Star Pain Medicine, we can treat DDD with nerve blocks, discoplasty, and even spinal cord stimulators. But now a breakthrough treatment using an experimental hydrogel shows quite a bit of promise. It could become the new treatment for DDD in the future.
The results of a study recently presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology Annual Scientific Meeting confirmed what we have long known about hydrogels: that they can be used effectively to treat DDD. The particular gel in this study had never been used in humans before. However, it received breakthrough device recognition from the FDA in 2020, giving its creator expedited review.
Success Across the Table
The study in question enrolled twenty patients reporting chronic lower back pain as a result of DDD. Patients were between the ages of 22 and 69. After being treated with the gel, and at six month follow up, every single patient reported less back pain.
For the record, all the patients ranked their pain at the start of the study at no less than 4 on a 10-point scale. None of them had found any relief with traditional treatments. The average pain ranking at the start of the study was 7.1; at six month follow up it had dropped to 2. Finally, all the participants reported increased physical function as a result of less pain.
How It Works
Hydrogels have been available as a treatment for DDD for some years now. A hydrogel is a substance that a doctor inserts directly into the affected joint to fill in empty space that used to be filled by the disc. What is different about this particular gel is that it is injected rather than mechanically inserted.
Other hydrogel products are soft and somewhat pliable. They do not necessarily stay in place that well. Inserting them also requires at least minor surgery. In this case though, the hydrogel was heated until it became a thick liquid. It was then injected into the affected discs where it cooled and adhered to the shape of the cavities being filled.
The biggest benefit here is restoring structural integrity of the affected joint. And because no surgery is required, the biggest risk faced by most patients is infection at the site of the injection. But that risk exists with any injection. The risk here is no higher.
Not Ready for Prime Time
We look forward to seeing what happens with this particular hydrogel moving forward. Those of us who practice pain medicine have had our eye on hydrogels for quite a while. None of what we have seen thus far has led us to believe that hydrogels were better than any of the other DDD therapies we utilize. But this new gel could change things dramatically.
It is obviously not ready for prime time yet. More studies need to be done. But for now, the idea looks promising. An injectable hydrogel that conforms to the space being filled could truly mean the end of lower back pain for people suffering from DDD. Here’s hoping the product eventually makes it to market.
In the meantime, we have other treatments we can offer here at Lone Star Pain Medicine. We create customized treatment plans for each patient only after taking the time to truly understand the root causes of their pain. We will do the same for you. If you are suffering from degenerative disc disease, we would be honored by the privilege to treat you.