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Ozone Injections Could Reduce Back Pain BY LAUREN UZDIENSKI, MARCH 25, 2009

Yes, that ozone. The molecule that filters UV rays in the atmosphere and is a pollutant on the ground could have applications for reducing back pain, according to new studies out of Europe.

Over the past five years, it is estimated that more than 14,000 patients in Italy have received injections of an ozone/oxygen gas mixture to treat a herniated disc, according to data presented this month at the Society of Interventional Radiology's annual meeting. The treatment works by reducing disc inflammation and volume, which in turn can reduce pain. This stands as an alternative to discectomy, the surgical removal of disc material.

Results from more than 8,000 patients were included in the Italian meta-analysis, with patient ages ranging from 13 to 94. Outcomes for ozone/oxygen treatment and discectomy were similar, though the ozone group reported fewer complications and faster recovery time. Mean VAS scores in the ozone/oxygen group declined by 3.9 points, and patients experienced a 26% improvement in ODI scores.

While the treatment is currently performed most frequently in Europe, researchers at the SIR conference predicted that it will become more common in the U.S. in the next few years, particularly as payers and hospitals become more sensitive to costs and patients pursue non-invasive or minimally invasive interventions.

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