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Muto suggested intradiscal injection of Ozone for disc hernia in 1998 under CT guidance. Leonardi popularized fluoroscopy guided Ozone injection into the intervertebral disc. After that successful outcome has been reported from various European centers. It is very important to note from those reports that complications are remarkably few. Not a serious single life threatening complication was found even after 120,000 cases of Ozone nucleolysis, which stresses the safety of these procedures.

The most critical portion of performing any of the minimally invasive procedures is accurate and safe positioning of the needle (or terminal device) in the centre of the disc space. The risk in ozonucleolysis is particularly minimised, with the use of a very thin 22/25-gauge needle. It may take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to position a needle in the centre of the disc space under radiological guidance. Once the needle is safely placed in position, ozonucleolysis is completed in only another 2 to 3 minutes.


There are four main biochemical actions on the intervertebral disc and its surrounding tissues. The various proposed mechanisms of action are:


  • Intra/intermolecular Bonds and collapse of the three dimensional Structure of the disc.
  • The plausible mechanism of action is the direct effect of the ozone on the Herniation. It is well established that the nucleus pulposus (the actual part of the disc that herniates through annulus) is 70-90% water contained within the domain of proteoglycans. The water binding capacity of the proteoglycan molecule is partially a property of its size and physical shape, but the main force that holds water to the molecule stems from the ionic, carboxyl (COOH) and sulphate (SO4) radicals of the glycosaminoglycan chains. The ozone can have a direct effect on these carboxyl and sulphate groups, breaking down some of these glycosaminoglycan chains which make up the proteoglycans. The destruction of these cross-linked structures reduces their ability to hold water therefore diminishing the size of the herniation by dehydration of the fibrillary matrix of the nucleus pulposus, revealing collagen fibers and signs of regression (vacuole formation and fragmentation)- a sort of disk “mummification.”


  • Synthesis of Prostaglandines & Secretion of Proteinases
  • Liberation of Bradykinines and Pain Inducing Products
  • Several studies suggest disc inflammation as a mechanism of sciatica due to disc herniation. Ozone has been shown to have an effect on the inflammatory cascade by inhibiting synthesis of proinflammatory prostaglandins or release of bradykinin or release of algogenic compounds; increased release of antagonists or soluble receptors able to neutralize proinflammatory cytokines like interleukin (IL)-1, IL-2, IL-8, IL-12, IL-15, interferon, and tumor necrosis factor. Therefore, by reducing the inflammatory components there is a corresponding reduction in pain.


  • Local production of Antioxidant Enzymes
  • Release of immunosuppressor cytokines like transforming growth factor, and IL-10
  • Another action which may prove to be one of the most important is the stimulation of
  • fibroblastic activity by ozone. Fibroblasts initiate the repair process by stimulating the
  • deposition of collagen. Although yet to be validated, this mode of action could
  • explain the resolution of PIVD on CT scans and the small percentage of patients who
  • have relapses after the completion of treatment plan.
  • “Ozone may have a reflex therapy effect called ‘chemical acupuncture’, breaking the chain of chronic pain stimulating anti-nociceptor analgesic mechanism. As pain is multi-factorial, ozone may also have a multi-factorial pharmacological effect alleviating disc compression by shrinkage of the herniated disc.”
  • The direct effect is the oxygen directly diffusing into the area.
  • The indirect action is the Ozone causing an increase in 2,3-DPG (diphosphoglycerate) which has a direct effect in the release of O2 from hemoglobin.. The end result is an increase in the amount of oxygen and a reduction in anoxia.
  • Disk shrinkage may also help to reduce venous stasis caused by disk compression of
  • vessels, thereby improving local microcirculation and increasing the supply of oxygen.
  • This effect has a positive effect on pain as the nerve roots are sensitive to hypoxia.


In a multi-centre, retrospective 3 year follow-up study of lumber disc herniation treated with European Neurosurgical Institute protocol of ozone therapy in 917 patients showed 78.9% good & excellent results with only one case of disc infection which healed with antibiotic.

In fact, over 120,000 patients have been treated successfully worldwide using injection of medical ozone with a success rate of 80-90% and with a near nil rate of procedure-related complications. “The procedure is a safe and effective alternative to open surgical procedure. Patients get the advantage of going home after a short recovery on the same day. They generally go to work within a week and are spared prolonged absence from work and disability,” The treatment relieves pain substantially and, after two sittings, people “can go back to work under medical guidance”.


1 More Hospital Stay.                                             One day/Day Care.

2 Complications of prolonged surgery& anaesthesia             GA is not required

3 “failed back surgery syndrome”                               No “failed back surgery syndrome”

4 High Cost                                                       Total cost is 1/5th to 1/10th

5 Failure rate 10-51%                                             Comparable 10-21%

6 Safety profile comparatively not so high.                       Very high safety profile

7 Repeat surgeries are more complicated.                  May be safely repeated many times

8 Cervical PIVD poses a surgical challenge                  Ideal procedure in cervical PIVD

9 Highly invasive very demanding surgery             Least invasive much easier procedure

10 High postoperative morbidity                                     Negligible morbidity

11 In-patient major surgery                                         Mostly OPD procedure


Ozone Discectomy a revolutionary least invasive safe & effective alternative to spine surgery is the treatment of choice for prolapsed disc (PIVD) done under local anaesthesia in a day care setting. This procedure is ideally suited for cervical & lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy. Total cost of the procedure is much less than that of surgical discectomy. All these facts have made this procedure very popular at European countries. It is also gaining popularity in our country due to high success rate, less invasiveness, fewer chances of recurrences, remarkably fewer side effects meaning high safety profile, short hospital stay, no post operative discomfort or morbidity and low cost.

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