Ozone is a gas that normally exists in the atmosphere; it is produced by the effect of the ultraviolet rays of the sun's light on the oxygen. These make the 2 atoms oxygen(O2) to change to one of 3 atoms(O3). It has a characteristic smell, which was the reason why Christian Friedrich named smelly gas (ozon in Greek) in 1840.
Medical ozone is the mixture of oxygen and ozone, in variable concentrations(never less than 95 oxygen), according to how is going to be applied. In the case of herniated disks the concentration are from 10-40 micrograms per milliliter, depending on the injection site.
Ozone is a toxic gas, it irritates the respiratory system if inhaled, reason for not to breath it. However, if administered correctly it does not have secondary effects over the body, because it is very unstable and changes rapidly to oxygen, at speed that depends on body temperature.
The equipment used to produce ozone uses oxygen and tranforms it with an electrical discharge. For medical applications it is produced right before it is injected, as for its instability it can not be stored. The concentration is exactly regulated by means of an ultraviolet gas analyzer, which ensures safety to the patient.
It is a novel treatment, which could be considered as natural medicine, however it has to be applied by an specialised doctor. The pioneers in the use of this treatment are the Italian spinal surgeons, who have demonstrated its effectiveness in thousands of patients and have conducted multicentric studies to prove it.
The results are comparable to those of surgery, good in 80% of the patients, with the advantage that it is done ambulatory (the patient goes home the same day), with local anesthesia and practically without any pain. This procedure can also be used in the herniated cervical disks. It has the advantage over the laser diskectomy that it can be used very effectively in extruded disks.
Treatment consist of three stages:
The ozone is a strong oxidizing agent, when injected in the paravertebral muscles it induces the production of antioxidant enzymes, which in time neutralize the toxic byproducts liberated by the ruptured pulpous nucleus which are producing the swelling of the nerve. Its injection in the disk speeds up the polyglucosids degradation in the degenerated pulpous nucleus, conducing to its reabsorption and dehydration and thus reducing the volume of the herniated material which has been responsible for the nerve compression.
The results of the ozone discolysis are not seen immediately, as it occurs frequently with surgery, but in a few days, as it is the accelerated natural resolution of swelling and diminishing of disk volume, which takes some time. However it has the enormous advantage over surgery that it does not alter the anatomy, situation that frequently conducts to the formation of adherences, which can become an even greater problem that the same disk herniation. In addition, the complications of the ozone discolysis practically are inexistent.
There are two diseases, Fauvism and Hyperthyroidism with active nodules, where the use of ozone is absolutely contraindicated, due to the harmful effect that it has on these diseases.
In some patients, with bulging disks, with an intact annulus (outer ring), it is possible that the use of the laser is the best approach to the problem, as the effect on the volume of the disk is immediate and is also an ambulatory procedure and has minimal complications associated.