Treating Lumbar Stenosis with an Interspinous Spacer
What Is Lumbar Stenosis?
Narrowing of the Spinal Cord
Lumbar stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower, or lumbar, area of the back.
Pressure on Spinal Cord and Nerve Roots
The spinal canal holds the spinal cord and nerve roots. When the canal becomes narrow, it can cause pressure on the spinal cord and nerves roots, resulting in a variety of symptoms including pain and numbness in the legs.
Pinched Nerves Cause Pain
In some patients, the pain is worse when standing and goes away when the person leans forward or sits. This is due in part to the way the bones in the back move during standing. When we stand, the lumbar area of the back arches. In someone with lumbar stenosis, this arching causes further narrowing in an already-narrow spinal canal. Nerves in the area are pinched by the movement, causing symptoms.
Implant Placed Between Two Vertebrae
One example of an interspinous spacer that is FDA approved for use is the X-STOP® Spacer. Patients whose pain improves with sitting may benefit from a procedure in which a small implant is placed between two vertebrae in the narrowed area that is causing the symptoms. The device causes the vertebrae to remain in the "sitting" position, resulting in a decrease or elimination of pain.
It takes about 30 minutes to insert the device, and patients usually go home the same or next day.
Is It Right For Me?
The X-STOP® Spacer is only used in patients with lumbar stenosis affecting one or two vertebrae, and only in patients whose symptoms go away when sitting. It is not done in patients who have nerve problems stemming from the stenosis, such as numbness or tingling. Although it is not the right treatment for everyone, it can be very effective in patients who meet these conditions.
Please talk with your doctor about this information, and about any other information you have heard or read about spine surgery. Make a list of questions and be sure you understand the treatment approach being recommended for you.