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Nucleoplasty is a minimally invasive alternative for treating a herniated or bulging disc. Performed in an outpatient setting, this procedure uses a needle that emits radio waves to shrink a disc bulge by dissolving excess tissue. This relieves the pressure inside the disc and on the nerves responsible for causing pain.

Learn more about this exam:

  • We will contact you prior to your appointment to review medications you are currently taking, your medical history, potential risks and answer any of your questions.
  • Contact your provider before you stop taking any medication.
  • If you have films, reports or CD-ROMs of any MRI, CT or X-rays you have already had, please bring them to the appointment.
  • You will need a driver to bring you home after your appointment.
  • The use of sedation during your procedure is at the radiologist's discretion. If prescribed, detailed instructions will be given to you about how to prepare for sedation.
  • If sedated, you will need someone to drive you home and stay with you post-procedure due to the effects of the medications.
  • At your appointment, women should always inform their physician or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breast feeding.
  • Overall you should plan on approximately two hours of your time for this procedure from check-in until you leave the clinic.
  • If you have sedation you will have an I.V. needle placed in your arm so that you can receive the medication. You will be monitored by our specialized staff.
  • You will be awake during the procedure to provide important feedback to the radiologist, but the sedative will help diminish anxiety and any discomfort.
  • You will lie face down on your stomach on a special exam table.
  • Using X-ray guidance, our specialized radiologist will insert a thin needle and inject contrast solution. The contrast solution is designed to highlight your anatomy to make sure the disc thought to be causing your pain is precisely targeted.
  • The radiologist will then place a hollow needle into the center of your bulged disc. You may experience mild discomfort during this part of the procedure.
  • A small, specialized wand is inserted through the needle, where it is heated to create a series of channels within the disc by dissolving tissue.
  • By reducing the amount of excess tissue within the disc, this treatment can potentially reduce the size of the bulge, and also relieve pressure inside the disc as well as the pressure on nerves being affected.
  • The wand will then be slowly withdrawn to its original position while thermally sealing the new channel.
  • Throughout the procedure, a radiologist and nurse will monitor your condition and comfort level closely.
  • The number of channels that are created is dependent on the disc size. At the end of the procedure, the wand and needle will be removed.

You may be asked to wait at the clinic for up to several hours for evaluation and observation.

  • A small bandage will be placed over the needle insertion site and you will be taken to the recovery area until you are ready to go home.
  • Due to the sedation, a nurse will review some guidelines that you will be asked to follow post-procedure (pertaining to driving, drinking alcoholic beverages, etc.).
  • Adult supervision is necessary for the remainder of the day due to the effects of sedation.
  • We will provide you with general activity and rehabilitation guidelines. Ask your referring provider about long-term activities, such as returning to work and rehabilitation.
  • You may experience increased symptoms for 7 to 10 days until the disc begins to heal.
  • Prescription medications may be given to relieve these symptoms.

Although complications are rare, we will review possible side effects and risks with you prior to your exam so you can ask questions and decide if this exam is right for you.


NOTE: This procedure is not performed in all of our centers. Please contact the location or region nearest you for more information or to schedule an appointment. We are happy to help answer any questions you may have!