An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 patients in the US are diagnosed with spinal stenosis in any given year, a dangerous condition wherein the canal of the spinal cord grows tighter and more constrictive, putting pressure on the spine and the surrounding nerve roots. Spinal stenosis is one of many degenerative spinal conditions associated with age and osteoarthritis and can be tricky to treat. Its onset features common symptoms like one-sided back pain, numb or tingling buttocks, or muscular weakness.
This is where the Superion Vertiflex Procedure comes in. If your doctor has approached you about potentially considering surgery for spinal stenosis, knowing all the options available to you is critical. Different procedures create space for the nerves to avoid paralysis or worse outcomes. Some are more invasive than others. And some, with the help of modern medical innovations, are minimally invasive and highly effective. The Superion Vertiflex Procedure might be one of them.
What Is the Superion Vertiflex Procedure?
The Superion Vertiflex Procedure is an outpatient procedure involving a patented decompression and displacement device that creates space between your vertebrae in the event of spinal stenosis. Like a mechanical wedge, the Superion Vertiflex device is inserted in the target area and expands to create a solid bridge between two bony processes of the vertebrae. This device acts as an extender to decompress the surrounding nerve roots and the spinal cord and minimize the damage associated with lumbar spinal stenosis. It is an interspinous medical implant utilized between portions of the spine to stabilize and decompress them.
The process is simple – a specialized tool designed to fit between two vertebrae at a point of structural integrity uses a tube to implant the device. It mechanically opens up to create a solid titanium bridge, decompressing the spinal canal. Titanium works well for its excellent biocompatibility, which minimizes the risk of rejection, swelling, or infection. The entire process is performed through a tube, requiring an incision of about 1 inch in length. Unlike other surgical operations, there is no bone or tissue loss and minimal bleeding. A trained team can perform the procedure in an outpatient setting, and the patient can even go home on the same day.
Superion/Vertiflex is developed explicitly for mild or moderate spinal stenosis. Doctors avoid the Superion/Vertiflex device in severe cases of spinal stenosis, where a more invasive intervention is needed to decompress the spinal cord. For example, it may also not help in issues where a tumor is causing spinal compression. Before the Superion Vertiflex Procedure can be possible, there are several things to look at first. These include spinal instability or a history of fractures in the spinous process, the bony part of the vertebrae which these implants rely on to create a solid bridge.
When Is the Superion Vertiflex Procedure Used?
The Vertiflex or Superion medical implant features the treatment of moderate lumbar spinal stenosis. This condition is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. Lumbar spinal stenosis has multiple potential causes, but the most common one is osteoarthritis. This type of stenosis is typically an age-related condition and could also be considered a natural consequence of wear and tear. However, several lifestyle factors can accelerate osteoarthritis, and genetic predisposition can cause the earlier onset of osteoarthritic symptoms.
These symptoms include chronic back pain, spinal nerve compression, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis. Risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol use, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. The lower back is the most common site for all spinal conditions. In addition to being the least protected and least supported portion of the spine, it is also the section that is most vulnerable to injury. Because chronic lower back pain in America is so prevalent, it can take time to identify a mild case of spinal stenosis. However, a few telltale signs may urge a doctor to do a thorough checkup of your spine. These might include:
- Sciatic pain (burning sensation or tingling down one leg)
- Numbness/weakness/frequent cramping in one leg
- Foot drop (inability to keep foot raised while walking/inadvertently slapping foot down during walking)
In much more severe cases, spinal stenosis can ultimately lead to emergency symptoms that require immediate action to avoid long-term paralysis and loss of mobility. These include:
- Spreading and progressively severe pain through the back of the legs and inner thigh
- Inability to get out of a chair or walk
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
While the leading cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, other conditions often co-occur or may be responsible for the onset of your symptoms. These include:
- A spinal tumor
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Post-surgical spinal pain
- Bone diseases (causing fractures, bone spurs, narrowing spinal canals)
- Back injury (pressing on your nerves, causing swelling and nerve compression, slipped/herniated discs)
Suppose your pain and discomfort result from a nerve compression triggered by mild or moderate spinal stenosis. In that case, your doctor may utilize a physical examination and an imaging test to confirm their theory. The Superion Vertiflex Procedure is the way to go if your condition improves from leaning forward if other, more conservative treatment options fail.
Other Treatment Options for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
If you are diagnosed with spinal stenosis, your doctor will begin by recommending conservative treatment options. The Superion Vertiflex Procedure is only in question when first-line treatments fail and your pain does not improve (or get substantially worse). Conservative treatment options for lumbar spinal stenosis may include:
- Physical therapy. A professional physical therapist can help a patient with lumbar spinal stenosis utilize daily exercises and stretches for natural pain relief and reduce pain through regular training and strength development.
- Activity modification. A lot of back injuries occur at work or home. Helping patients relearn healthier movement patterns and modify the way they move through life can reduce the likelihood of recurring pain after initial recovery.
- Medication. Pain medication, including over-the-counter painkillers, may help combat initial pain and swelling when symptoms start.
Superion Vertiflex Procedure Aftercare and Recovery
The Superion Vertiflex Procedure is minimally invasive, and patients typically recover and leave the clinic on the same day. However, while the process is short, you will be kept under observation for the first few hours to ensure that there are no immediate side effects or indications of a complication. If you want to learn more about whether the Superion Vertiflex Procedure is correct for you, consult your doctor.