What is Interspinous Process Fusion?
In our last blog we talked about X-Stop, a minimally invasive spinal surgery that can often relieve pain in the back and legs caused by lumbar spinal stenosis, which is a common condition resulting from a narrowing of the spinal canal. X-Stop is an excellent example of the recent advances that make spine care such an exciting field in medicine today. The X-Stop procedure was approved by the FDA as recently as 2005. And yet we’ve already moved beyond the first generation of this technology. Second generation devices that are similar to the X-Stop additionally allow for a fusion between the adjacent vertebral segments using the same minimally invasive back surgery technique. This second generation procedure is more commonly referred to as an interspinous process fusion. As with the X-Stop, the device is inserted in a small incision made between adjacent spinous processes, which are the bony protrusions of the vertebrae that can be seen and felt along the back of the spine.
Interspinous process fusion can be performed under general anesthesia or under intravenous sedation with local anesthesia. There is minimal removal of bone and soft tissue and the procedure is typically performed in about one hour. It can be performed as an outpatient procedure, so patients can go home the same day that the surgery is performed. While this advance in spinal care is significant, no spinal surgery should be undertaken lightly, and not every technique is right for every patient. Interspinous process fusion may be appropriate for people over 50 years of age with spinal stenosis confined to one or two levels of the spine, and who experience relief from symptoms when bending forward at the waist or when sitting. Prior to considering surgical intervention including interspinous process fusion, our board certified orthopedic spine surgeons recommend that patients first participate in a comprehensive nonoperative treatment regimen for several months.. Non-surgical treatments may include exercises, physical therapy, epidural injections, and pain medications. If these treatment measures fail to provide adequate pain relief, it’s good to know that today’s minimally invasive back surgery provide additional treatment options for many patients who are suffering with pain. We’ll talk about some other advances that you should know about in future blogs.