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Using Interspinous Process Spacers to Treat Spinal Stenosis

pain management, spine doctor

Spinal stenosis is a condition which causes narrowing of the spinal canal. The disease can occur at each level of the spine, resulting in pain and loss of function. Recent improvements in the treatment of spinal stenosis have led to a new alternative to invasive surgery. Interspinous process spacers, lightweight hardware often made from titanium, can be used in the lumbar (low back) area to help relieve pressure that causes nerve inflammation. A physician can perform placement of interspinous process spacers in an outpatient surgery setting and takes 15-45 minutes.

Spinous processes are hard surfaces that jut out from the back side of individual vertebrae. They can be felt by running a hand down the middle of a person’s lower back. Placing the spacers causes little damage to lumbar soft tissue due to the proximity of the spinous processes to the skin. The appliances are designed to open the area where nerves leave the center of the spine and extend down into the legs. Implanting a spacer in this location decreases nerve tissue stress by limiting the ability to bend backward, and can take come of the weight-bearing load off the disc between the vertebrae.

Interspinous process spacer implantation begins with the individual lying on an operating table lying on their stomach or side. A mild anesthetic is administered to numb the area. Using X-Ray (fluoroscopy) as a guide, the physician makes a 2-3 inch cut in the center of the lower back. Placement of the metal spacer is between two vertebrae; the technique can be performed at two different levels if necessary.

Benefits of lumbar spinal stenosis treatment with interspinous process spacer implantation include:

  • Lower complication rate and post-op issues than other surgeries for this condition
  • Possibly the best choice for elderly patients that are high-risk for surgery
  • No bone removal necessary
  • Preservation of spine movement
  • Less blood loss and risk of infection

People with bowel or bladder function problems, allergies to titanium, severe osteoporosis, or an active infection are not candidates for the procedure.

If you have been diagnosed spinal stenosis and would like to discuss treatment options, please call us at either our Seguin or NewBraunfels clinic locations.

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