As we noted in our last blog, X-Stop, an implant deployed in the surgical treatment of mild spinal stenosis, was approved by the FDA in 2005 as a safe and effective treatment for symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. This procedure illustrates the advances that make spinal medicine such an exciting field. Today, there are devices similar to the X-Stop in design but that do allow motion at the operative segment. These devices are used to create a spinal fusion between the adjacent vertebral segments. This procedure is more commonly referred to as an interspinous process fusion. As with the X-Stop, a device is inserted in a small incision made between adjacent spinous processes, which are the bony protrusions of the vertebrae that can be seen and felt along the back of the spine. Interspinous process fusion is another form of spinal fusion back surgery that eliminates the natural flexion and rotational ability of the individual vertebrae.
Interspinous process fusion is typically performed in about one hour, either under general anesthesia or using intravenous sedation with local anesthesia, and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. The procedure is relevant for patients who have mild spinal stenosis and require only a minimal removal of bone and soft tissue to achieve pain relief. This represents an advance in spinal care, but any spinal surgery has the risk of complications, and not every technique is right for every patient. Before considering surgical intervention including interspinous process fusion, patients should try more conservative treatments such as exercises, physical therapy, epidural injections, and pain medications. When surgery is recommended, interspinous process fusion is most appropriate for people over 50 years of age with mild spinal stenosisconfined to one or two levels of the spine, and who experience relief from symptoms when bending forward at the waist or when sitting. With more advanced spinal stenosis disease, patients should consider the option of avoiding fusion surgery and opting for a solution, such as TOPS Posterior Arthroplasty, that preserves motion of the spine at the operative level while stabilizing the segment after decompression surgery. Here at Premia Spine, developers of advanced surgical treatments for spinal stenosis and related spinal problems, we think it’s important for anyone suffering from ongoing back pain or restricted mobility to know all their treatment options.