SAN DIEGO An investigational approach to treating herniated disks garnered attention from attendees at the Society of Interventional Radiology meeting, many of whom suffered their own backaches from lugging conference bags and laptops up and down the halls of the San Diego Convention Center.

Kieran Murphy, interventional neuroradiologist and chief of medical imaging at the University of Toronto, presented data from a meta-analysis of more than 8,000 patients showing that ozone is effective in the treatment of herniated disks.

The approach involves injecting a mixture containing 98 percent pure oxygen and 2 percent ozone directly into the disc. The gas then interacts with proteins in the spine to reduce the volume of the hernia, Murphy explained during a press conference.

The approach was pioneered in Italy and has been used overseas in an estimated 14,000 individuals.

Data from the 8,000-patient meta-analysis demonstrated a mean improvement of 3.9 on the Visual Analog Scale and 25.5 on the Oswestry Disability Index, with a 79.7% chance of improvement according to the Modified MacNab scale. Murphy concluded that the data were both clinically and statistically significant, offering results comparable to a surgical discectomy.

However, Murphy added, the ozone approach offers less risk of complications than surgery. The meta-analysis revealed a complication risk of less than 0.1%. He also noted that there were no problems with infections because ozone is a sterilizing agent.

Murphy said his team has developed a device to create ozone and is working with the FDA on the design of a clinical trial. He hopes to see ozone treatments used in the U.S. within the next two years.

— Trista Morrison

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