If you have suffered with the symptoms and disability of spinal stenosis, you may be a candidate for the surgical procedure in which the X-STOP implant is inserted. This minimally-invasive operation can be performed as a same-day or outpatient procedure under local anesthesia.
Traditional surgeries for spinal stenosis usually involve a major operation under general anesthesia, several days of hospitalization, six to eight weeks of immediate post-operative care and up to six months for full recovery. The X-STOP, also know as the Interspinous Process Decompression System, is a titanium implant inserted into the lumbar spine between the bones to relieve pressure on the nerve roots when the spinal canal is narrowed.
Spinal stenosis, narrowing of the canal, occurs primarily in persons over the age of fifty, as the bones of the spine begin to degenerate from “wear and tear.” The effects of aging include thickening and calcification of the ligaments of the spine, changes in the bones and joints, formation of bone spurs, slippage of the vertebrae so that one slips over another, and disintegration of the discs that are the cushions between the bones. The resulting pressure on nerve roots causes leg pain known as “sciatica.”
The person with spinal stenosis may have symptoms of: backache, spreading down one or both legs, pain, numbness and tingling in the legs and buttocks, muscle weakness, balance problems, and loss of stamina. Standing or walking for a period of time increases the symptoms. The goal for treatment can be relieve of symptoms, however, the long-term approach must include relief of the pressure causing the symptoms.
Interspinous Process Decompression uses an implant between two bones to relieve this pressure. Under local anesthesia, a small incision in the back allows access to the bones. With s-ray guidance, the implant is inserted. Because no bone is removed, there is very little blood loss, and you have the option of local anesthesia and outpatient surgery, recovery can be much quicker. The implant is also fully removable should there be complications or poor results in terms of symptom relief.
Post-operatively, you should be able to go home as soon as you are awake. Occasionally, there may be an overnight stay in the hospital, especially if there are other medical conditions or concerns about the complications of surgery and anesthesia. You will be encouraged to get up and walk as soon as possible. While the limitations to movements are not as restrictive as those after other types of lumbar surgical procedures, you may be instructed to avoid bending backwards, avoiding lifting more than 20 pounds, and to limit vigorous activity such as running, jogging, playing tennis, golf and any contact sport for up to six weeks.
Postoperative pain is minimal and many patients report they do not even need pain medication. You will have a small incision, usually 2-3 inches long, that will require a few days of attention. Recovery from surgery and anesthesia may take a day or two, however, most people are pleasantly surprised at how easy the experience is and how quickly they obtain relief from their back pain and sciatica.
The X-STOP implant is not for every person with backache, but should be considered for those who meet the criteria of narrowing of the lumbar spinal canal with pain and disability.