New injectable gel significantly reduces chronic lower back pain

FAIRFAX, Va. — A new experimental form of hydrogel has proven both safe and effective when it comes to relieving chronic lower back pain caused by degenerative disc disease (DDD).

According to a new study, doctors can inject the new gel right into a patient’s spinal discs.

After six months of treatment, each patient involved reported feeling significantly less pain. On a scale of one to 10, pain among back pain sufferers declined from an average self-reported pain score of 7.1 to just 2.0. Additionally, the patients reported improved physical functioning; average scores fell from 48 all the way down to six on a questionnaire measuring how much lower back pain hindered their ability to do normal tasks.

“If these findings are confirmed in further research, this procedure may be a very promising treatment for chronic low back pain in those who’ve found insufficient relief from conservative care,” says lead study author Douglas P. Beall, MD, FSIR, chief of radiology services at Clinical Radiology of Oklahoma, in a media release. “The gel is easy to administer, requires no open surgery, and is an easy procedure for the patient.”

Filling in problem areas in the discs

Scientists call the new gel Hydrafil™ — a second-generation hydrogel developed by ReGelTec, Inc.

In 2020, ReGelTec received the FDA’s “breakthrough device designation.” This distinction allows for an expedited review for cases in which the early evidence indicates a new, experimental product may provide even better treatment than currently available options.

A total of 20 patients enrolled (ages 22-69), all with DDD lower back pain. Each volunteer described their pain to researchers as at least a four or higher on the 10-point pain scale. No participant had enjoyed anything more than “mild relief” from conservative care options (rest, back braces, analgesics, and physical therapy).

Study authors sedated each patient for the operation and then heated the gel into a thick liquid. Using fluoroscopic imaging, the team used a 17-gauge needle to inject the gel directly into the affected discs. Upon injection, the gel filled in any cracks and tears, adhering to the disc’s center and outer layer.

“We really have no good treatments for degenerative disc disease, aside from conservative care,” Dr. Beall adds. “Surgery is statistically no more effective than conservative care and can potentially make things worse; nerve ablation is appropriate for only a few patients; and existing hydrogels are inserted through an incision as a soft solid, which can pop out of place if you’re not highly skilled in placing it.”

“Because this gel is injectable, it requires no incision, and it augments the whole disc, restoring its structural integrity, which nothing we have currently can do,” he concludes.

The researchers are presenting their findings at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2022 Annual Scientific Meeting.

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John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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  1. Great news but this pain masking might cause a sufferer to not take actions that might be a healthy solution. For me, decades of chronic lower back pain with “conventional” treatments (shots, steroids, tens devices, pain pills, etc.) stopped after 3 weeks on a vegan diet. I cannot know why, theories on improving oxygen to the discs are a reasonable standard guess. I know it can’t work for everyone but that was three years ago and it changed my life. Orthopedic doctors are set—up by the industry to live on the cash for their pain meds visits and shot treatments but need to be trained to suggest diet modifications that are proven to help many. Google and search for back pain.

  2. I have no discs from L1 thru L4 and a partial L5 disc. Hope this will qualify. At 83, I’d love to get into a trial to enjoy my final years.

  3. I have at least 20 herniated disks due to degenerative disk disease. I’d love to get into the trials. I have a St. Jude Neurostimulator and that helps, but it doesn’t cover my entire spine.

  4. My L4 and L5 have almost fused. I would like to be a study participant. Pain level hovers between a 7 and 10 on a daily basis.

  5. When will this treatment be available and where. I have bone on bone. I live in WV.

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