What Is the TOPS™ System and How It’s Better than Spine Fusion Surgery?
Many people suffer from spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis of the lumbar region. Spondy, as it’s sometimes called, is a spinal condition causing lower back pain. It often happens when one of the vertebrae slips out of place and hits the vertebra below it. Many times, people can use non-surgical treatments to relieve their symptoms.
Typically, both conditions involve spine instability, so the vertebrae move more than normal. Sometimes, it puts pressure on your nerves, causing leg or low back pain.
Spinal stenosis means that the spaces between the vertebrae are narrower than normal. Some people with this condition develop spondylolisthesis of the lumbar region. There are many types of spondy, including:
- Isthmic Spondylolisthesis – This occurs from spondylolysis when a fracture or crack weakens the bone with time.
- Congenital spondylolisthesis – If a baby’s spine doesn’t form appropriately before birth, this congenital condition is the result. Typically, the misaligned vertebrae cause the adult to be at a higher risk for slippage.
- Degenerative Spondylolisthesis – This is the most common type and happens because of aging. With time, the discs cushioning the vertebrae lose the liquid between them. The discs thin out and can slip out of place.
Causes of Spondylolisthesis of the Lumbar Region
Typically, the main cause of spondy for young athletes is an overextension of the spine. However, genetics can play a part, too. Some people are just born with thinner bones or narrower passages. With normal wear and tear over the years, the spine and discs can cause the condition.
Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis
Some patients don’t experience symptoms and have the condition for years without knowing it. However, the primary sign of spondylolisthesis is low back pain. It can also extend down the thighs and into the buttocks. Other symptoms may include:
- Weakness, tingling, and numbness in the feet
- Pain when bending
- Difficulty standing and walking for long periods
- Back stiffness
- Muscle spasms in the backs of the thighs
Spondylolisthesis and Lumbar Stenosis Treatment Options
Typically, lumbar stenosis treatment includes:
- Rest – Don’t perform strenuous sports and activities.
- Medications – Use NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to bring relief. Doctors can also prescribe stronger pain meds.
- Injections – You can get a steroid medication injection into the affected area.
- Physical Therapy – There are special exercises you can do to strengthen the back and stomach muscles. It can take a few weeks to see results.
- Braces – A spinal brace can stabilize the area. However, this also limits movement and isn’t effective for adults.
Sometimes, those aren’t enough, so you might require lumbar stenosis surgery. Many times, the pain is too severe, and other treatments haven’t worked. However, medication can reverse the symptoms for years. Still, with time, the pain gets worse and worse. If you find yourself taking more medication or requiring higher doses/strengths, it might be time to try something else.
Stenosis surgery is designed to relieve pain, restore function, and stabilize the spine where vertebrae have slipped. Typically, it’s required for people with lateral, foraminal, and central nerve root impingement caused by the narrowing of the person’s spinal canal or when nerve root areas exit and can’t be treated with a non-surgical option.
Most doctors recommend stenosis surgery to remove the lamina, facet joints, and other soft or bony elements that might press on the nerves.
In most cases, stenosis surgery because of spondylolisthesis involves spinal decompression, and spine fusion is often involved. Decompression and fusion usually offer better outcomes than just decompression.
During decompression surgery, the surgeon removes discs and bones from the spine to help the nerves have more space inside to relieve pain. The goal is not to cause instability of the spine, but that often happens. When it does, spine fusion can help.
With spine fusion surgery, the surgeon fuses or connects two damaged vertebrae. As they heal, it turns into one bone, which eliminates movement between the two. Most people have limited flexibility for the rest of their lives because of this surgical procedure. Often, it involves using rods, screws, bone grafts, or an intervertebral cage to reduce motion and stabilize the spine.
TOPS System vs. Spine Fusion
The TOPS System can treat spondylolisthesis of the lumbar region and stenosis without spine fusion or lumbar stenosis surgery. This is a new treatment option, and the TOPS device provides an alternative solution to traditional fusion surgery for patients with severe stenosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and other spinal conditions.
Many people turn to the TOPS System because it helps you preserve motion and maintain stability. With the procedure, the surgeon removes the bones that press onto the nerves, similar to decompression. After that, the TOPS System is implanted into the area to reestablish a more controlled range of movement within the lumbar spine.
Even if you experience numbness, sciatica, and low-back pain, you can still bend, walk, flex, and enjoy regular activities that you couldn’t do before the surgery.
Though spine fusion also uses decompression surgery, it then fuses together those two vertebrae. While this fixes the problem of too much movement, you can’t do much afterward and may have to use special tools to grab things on the floor.
What Is the TOPS System?
TOPS is a mechanical implant device used to replace the soft and bony tissues removed during decompression surgery. This surgical procedure is a great lumbar stenosis treatment (spinal canal narrowing), degenerative spondylolisthesis, and joint arthrosis. The system is designed to be used between the segments L2 and L5, which are commonly affected by lumbar stenosis.
Your doctor may also combine TOPS with the Versalink Fusion System to provide assistance for a multi-level disease between the L1 and S1 vertebrae.
What Is Recovery Like?
With traditional stenosis surgery and spine fusion, recovery times can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Some people never regain full functionality, especially if the stenosis was severe and many vertebrae had to be fused together.
However, TOPS spinal surgery recovery time is much less. Though you still have to recover from decompression and the implant device, you have fewer restrictions put on you. In fact, you maintain your full range of motion immediately after surgery. On top of that, most patients recover quickly based on how active they are afterward.
Recovery times aren’t the only concern, though. It depends on the outcome you hope to achieve. If you want to retain motion after the surgery, it’s best to go with the TOPS System. Otherwise, you are severely limited as to how much you can move.
The outlook for those who have lumbar stenosis surgery is that it often has a high success rate. However, you have to think of what that indicates for you. For most people, it means never twisting or bending and having severe motion limits for the rest of your life.
If you want something better, the TOPS System might be ideal for you. Typically, the TOPS spinal surgery recovery time is quicker than with fusion. Plus, you can be moving around the day after surgery and continue improving with few or no restrictions!
What to Do Now
Now that you understand what spondylolisthesis of the lumbar region is and the disadvantages of traditional lumbar stenosis surgery and spine fusion, it’s up to you to decide if the TOPS System is a suitable alternative.
It’s designed as an implant for diseased levels between L4-L5, L2-L3, or L3-L4, and can only be completed after decompression surgery. With this implant, many people reduce their pain, have more range of motion, and continue improving and living a healthy, active lifestyle.
Please talk to your doctor or surgeon about your lumbar stenosis treatment options and ask if TOPS is right for you. We are so happy that you’ve taken the first step to better health and reduced pain.