Interspinous Spacers

Interspinous process decompression systems, sometimes called interspinous spacers, are lightweight hardware that can be implanted in the body to treat lumbar spinal stenosis. These spacers are often made of a very strong but very lightweight metal (titanium) which is biocompatible in the human body.

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back which causes compression on nerves. People with lumbar spinal stenosis experience pain but may also have tingling, numbness, or weakness in their lower back, buttocks, and legs. Some people are born with lumbar spinal stenosis, but in many people it develops gradually as they age in what is called degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis.

How Does an Interspinous Spacer Work?

The interspinous spacer is put into place in the body during a surgical procedure. The surgeon locates the vertebrae associated with the stenosis. The spacer is then implanted between those vertebrae in such a way that it prevents the patient from bending too far backward, which causes pain.

Implanting the Interspinpous Spacer

Each vertebra bone consists of several different portions. The back of each vertebra is called the spinous process. This is the bumpy portion of the vertebrae that can be felt just under the skin when running your hand over the back bone. The spacer is implanted between the spinous processes of the vertebrae involved in the lumbar spinal stenosis.

What You Should Know about Interspinous Spacers and Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

The University Spine Center specializes in state-of-the-art treatments for all types of spinal problems.

  • An interspinous spacer is not appropriate for everyone; discuss with your physician whether or not you would be an appropriate candidate for this surgery.
  • This procedure is a spinal surgery and, as such, carries with it certain risks as well as potential benefits. Discuss these risks with your doctor before you make a decision.
  • The spacer may provide pain relief and allow you to resume your old activities. It must be noted that not everyone will experience the same degree of relief.

What is the X-Stop® device?

The X-Stop® device is a type of interspinous spacer or  “interspinous process decompression system.” It is a brand name for a specific type of interspinous spacer. There are many other types as well.

What Happens if Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is Not Treated?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is more than just a painful condition. It can be serious. The narrowing of the spinal column can cause compression on the nerves and later cause them to become inflamed. Spinal stenosis can be caused by degenerative changes to the discs, which can worsen over time. Degenerative changes to cartilage can cause bony projections called bone spurs to grow, further narrowing the spinal canal. In other words, just as there are risks in having surgery, there may be risks in leaving lumbar spinal stenosis untreated.

What To Expect from Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

There are different types of surgeries and instrumentation so you must discuss the details of your surgery with your physician. In many cases, this procedure can be done as minimally invasive surgery under local anesthetic on an outpatient basis. Some patients require general surgery with general anesthesia.

Considering Whether Surgery is Right for You

There are many factors to consider when contemplating any type of surgery. The University Spine Center is committed to answering your questions and providing you with information you can understand so that you can reach the right decision for you and your family.