Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. Some common factors contributing to the development of spinal stenosis:
- The process of aging leads to degeneration in the spine that may create bony spurs and outgrowths on spinal vertebrae. These osteophytes can extend in the direction of the spinal canal and place pressure on neural elements.
- Stress and degeneration of the spinal ligaments over a lifetime may lead to thickening of these ligaments. The spinal canal can also be narrowed this way.
- As we age, changes in the stability of the spine cause the posterior joints (facet joints) to become loosened with stress. This stress on the facet joints can cause hypertrophy (overgrowth) of the joints and surrounding capsules, which in turn further narrows the spinal canal and can place pressure on central and exiting neural elements.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The most common symptoms of spinal stenosis are pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in the lower extremities experienced after walking or exercise. Patients commonly experience associated pain in the low back and buttocks. This pain can radiate down one or both legs. Often the pain shortens the stride, inhibiting walking or even immobilizing the patient. These symptoms are known as neurogenic claudication.
Many patients find their symptoms are worst when standing or walking, and find some relief from sitting, lying down or bending forward, all of which movements widen the spinal canal.
In some cases, the pain associated with spinal stenosis can be controlled via non-surgical options. When treating a new patient, doctors may prescribe pain medication or injections, chiropractic care, physical therapy, or massage to relieve the pain. In many cases, these methods are simply not enough to fix the problem and surgical options are considered.
- Decompression with Spinal Fusion
- The coflex® Interlaminar Stabilization™ device
coflex Device and Procedure
In 2012, the FDA approved the coflex spinal implant, which is a small, U-shaped titanium device that provides spinal stability without the mobility loss associated with spinal fusion.
Three out of four coflex® patients in a clinical study left the hospital within 24–48 hours after surgery, compared to one out of three fusion patients. For all coflex® patients in the clinical study, the hospital stay was less than a week. In some cases, the surgeon may elect to perform a decompression using the coflex® device at a surgery center, which means that some patients will not require a hospital stay.