The spinal cord undergoes many degenerative changes as a result of aging and trauma. Spinal stenosis is a common spinal cord condition that occurs when the space in the spinal cord is too small for the nerves that travel through it. This results in excessive pressure on the spine, characterized by pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
If conservative treatments for this condition do not provide the necessary relief, you may be a good candidate for spine surgery. The placement of spinal spacers is a standard surgical treatment for lumbar stenosis. The treatment offers relief from the condition by placing a decompression device between the vertebrae.
The spinal spacers for stenosis are custom-made to fit your anatomy. After the procedure, you can experience some relief from your symptoms. If you are living with the symptoms of lumbar stenosis and need surgery in Los Angeles, CA, you will benefit from our expert services at Dr. Rappard’s Practice.
Understanding Spinal Spacers for Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the space between the spines is too narrow for the nerves. Spinal stenosis can occur in the neck or lower back and is characterized by:
- Neck pain.
- Lower back pain.
- Numbness and tingling sensations on the legs.
- Bowel and bladder problems.
Although some people are born with a narrow spinal canal, spinal stenosis could be caused by other factors, including:
- Normal wear and tear of the spinal cord due to age.
- Herniated and damaged spinal discs.
- Spinal injuries and trauma to the back.
- Tumors in the spinal cord.
As spinal stenosis progresses, the symptoms become unbearable, and treatment is necessary. After receiving a stenosis diagnosis, most doctors start with conservative care, including medication and therapy. Interspinous spacers may be recommended if these treatments fail to provide the expected relief.
Spinal spacers are FDA-approved devices inserted between the spinal vertebrae to reduce spinal cord compression and address spinal stenosis symptoms. Spinal spacers for stenosis are made of titanium and designed to fit your spinal structure. Before your doctor recommends this procedure, they will explore other treatment options.
Therefore, you must have exhausted all the conservative treatments before this procedure. Interspinous spacers are a safe and effective alternative to aggressive surgical procedures like spinal fusion. Before recommending surgery, the spinal surgeon will use various diagnostic tests to determine the extent of the condition. Under the following circumstances, you will not be a suitable candidate for spinal spacers for stenosis:
- You are allergic to titanium. Spinal spacers are made of titanium or titanium alloy. Therefore, if you are allergic to the material, the doctor can recommend other treatment options for your spinal stenosis.
- You are overweight or obese. For obese and overweight patients, the titanium spacers may not be strong enough to support the body weight. Since spinal spacers are not attached to the spinal cord using screws, excessive pressure could cause them to dislodge.
- Severe scoliosis. If you are diagnosed with lumbar scoliosis or other conditions that cause vulnerability of the lumbar spine, the spinal spacers may not be a good fit for your condition.
- Spinal infection. The spinal spacers are placed between the vertebrae to create sufficient space for the nerves that pass through the spinal cord.
Procedure for Placing Spinal Spacers for Stenosis
Decompression of the spinal cord using spinal spacers is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. Using minimally invasive techniques helps reduce the risks and complications associated with open-spine surgery. The procedure for placing the spacers into your spinal cord takes the following steps:
Before you undergo the placement of spinal spacers, you must undergo an evaluation. This is because the symptoms of spinal stenosis can mimic those of other spinal conditions. Your doctor will assess your medical history, perform a physical examination, and order diagnostic tests to determine whether you are a good candidate for spinal spacers.
Common diagnostic tests that could give a clear view of your condition include CT scans and MRIs.
If you are eligible for spinal spacer surgery, your surgeon will explain the details of the procedure, including its benefits and potential complications that you could suffer. During the preoperative consultation stage, you can ask questions and have your concerns about the procedure addressed. After this stage, you can make an informed decision about the procedure.
Placement of the Spacers
During the procedure for the placement of spinal spacers, the surgeon will administer anesthesia to numb the pain and prevent discomfort from the procedure. The incision area is then sterilized to prevent the transfer of bacteria and reduce the risk of infection. The surgeon will then make small incisions on the skin above the problematic area and use imagining guidance to insert the spacers between the affected spinous process.
After removing the instruments, the surgeon will close the incisions on your skin using a bandage. You can go home after this procedure when the anesthesia wears off. You can expect to feel some relief from your symptoms as you recover from the surgery.
Aftercare Tips for Spinal Spacer Surgery for Stenosis
Recovery from your spinal spacer surgery will vary depending on the extent of your procedure and your overall immunity. After the procedure, your doctor will offer care tips that you must follow to speed up recovery and prevent complications:
Surgery for spinal spacers uses the minimally invasive technique, which means that the wounds left after the procedure are small. However, since these incisions go deep into the muscles, you must keep the surgical site clean and dry. The doctor will recommend that you avoid long baths and refrain from scrubbing your back within the first 72 hours of the procedure.
Your doctor will recommend that you rest after the procedure. This allows your body to recover. For at least six weeks from the date of your surgery, you should avoid:
- Lifting heavy weights.
- Engaging in strenuous sporting activities like swimming and running.
- Avoid bending or twisting the spine.
When it is time to resume work and other physical activity, you should do it gradually to avoid straining your back.
Your doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and pain relievers to minimize the pain and swelling from the procedure. If you are allergic to certain medications, you must inform your doctor to receive a prescription for an alternative. If you experience severe pain that persists after taking medication, you must seek immediate care.
Depending on the extent of your spinal stenosis, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy as you recover from spinal spacer surgery. You can begin your physical therapy immediately after the surgery. A skilled physical therapist will take you through appropriate exercises as your body recovers. Physical therapy helps you regain strength in your muscles. Additionally, physical therapy can stimulate your body and speed up your recovery.
The spinal spacers are foreign objects, and your body will require time to adjust to the treatment. The correct sleep posture can slow down or speed up your healing process. The following sleep techniques could help relieve pressure on your back and spine:
- Sleeping with your back elevated with a pillow.
- Avoid straining your back, and wake up by rolling off the bed instead of sitting upright.
- Sleeping with your knees and hips slightly bent.
Benefits of Spinal Spacers Surgery
Surgery for the placement of spinal spacers has numerous benefits for patients seeking relief from spinal stenosis. If your surgery is successful, you can expect to feel relieved a few days after the procedure. Some of the benefits of spinal spacer surgery include:
- Minimal blood loss. Using a minimally invasive technique, the surgeon will make tiny incisions on your body instead of the large incisions made during traditional spine surgery. This reduces the risk of excessive bleeding. If you experience excessive or persistent bleeding after the placement of spinal spacers, you will need emergency care.
- Reduced operating time and hospital stay. Most people are not thrilled about spending time in a hospital. The placement of spinal spacers for the treatment of stenosis is a quick procedure performed in the outpatient clinic. Immediately after the procedure, you can be discharged to go home and recover in the comfort of your own home.
- Less muscle damage. When performing open surgery for the spine, a surgeon may need to cut through muscles to reach the problematic area and correct the problem. However, the placement of spinal spacers is different. The small incisions made to access the spinal cord cause minimal damage to your muscles. This speeds up the recovery time and reduces the pain associated with surgical procedures.
- Reduced pain and relief from other symptoms. You can expect to feel immediate relief from the leg and back pain associated with spinal stenosis after the placement of the spinal spacers.
- Improved mobility and function. After the procedure for the placement of spinal spacers, you will be able to move your legs and back without any strain. This helps ensure you can return to routine activities as you recover from the surgery.
- Decreased risk of infection. Due to the small incisions made for the spinal spacer surgery, there is less exposure to bacteria. This reduces the risk of developing an infection. However, if you have compromised immunity, you should look out for symptoms like fever, swelling of the surgical site, and pain, which could indicate infection.
Complications of Interspinous Spacers
Treatment of stenosis with spinal spacers offers numerous benefits for patients dealing with the condition. However, like other surgical procedures, some complications could arise. Seeking the services of an experienced spine surgeon and following all the aftercare tips could help avoid these complications. Common complications associated with this treatment procedure include:
- Allergic reactions. For individuals with metal allergies, the placement of the titanium spacers could have adverse effects on them. Another common form of allergy you can develop after the surgery is a reaction to anesthesia. These complications can be avoided by providing a full medical history to your surgeon before the procedure begins.
- Failure to deliver expected results. Surgery is often a last resort for patients who have exhausted conservative treatments for stenosis. Therefore, most patients expect to feel relief from their symptoms. Unfortunately, the placement of spinal spacers for stenosis may fail to provide the expected results. If your symptoms persist after the surgery, you may need additional procedures.
- Dislodging of the device. Spinal spacers are not secured into the spinal cord with screws. Therefore, there is a risk of dislodging the device. The risk of this complication increases when you are overweight or engage in strenuous activity before your body recovers from the procedure.
- Fracture of the spinous process. Spinal spacers are custom-made to fit your body structure. However, if the spinal cord is too narrow, inserting the spacers could result in a fracture. A spinal fracture is an added burden that may require other extensive treatment procedures to correct.
- Settling of bones around the spacers. The bone could form around the spinal spacers for patients with severe osteoporosis or bone degeneration, decreasing their effectiveness.
Find a Skilled Neurointerventional Surgeon Near Me
Spinal stenosis is the compression of the spine due to insufficient space for the nerves that pass through the spinal canal. The symptoms of this condition include pain and discomfort that could prevent you from performing your daily routine or going to work. If you are diagnosed with spinal stenosis, you may need to undergo different treatments, including medications, physical therapy, and surgery.
The extent of your condition will help determine the right treatment. For patients with advanced-stage stenosis, surgery to insert spinal spacers will be necessary to ease the compression. Using minimally invasive surgical techniques involves making small incisions on the back along the lumbar vertebrae and using a small tube guided by a microscope to insert the spacers.
Seeking the services of an experienced spine surgeon could improve your spine surgery's outcome and reduce the risk of complications. At Dr. Rappard’s clinic, we offer safe and reliable spine surgery services for our patients in Los Angeles, CA. Call us today at 424-777-7463 for a consultation.