Vertiflex® Superion® Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Classically, people with spinal stenosis are those individuals who get back pain and leg pain when they walk. When they sit down, the pain almost immediately goes away. When we talk about back pain, we talk about the best way to sleep. They say sleeping on your side, curled up in a ball in the fetal position. Why is that? Because it causes the spine to open up. Well, a procedure we’re using to treat spinal stenosis, called Vertiflex® Superion®, is based on that same concept.
Vertiflex Superion is a new procedure developed to treat spinal stenosis. The device is placed rather simply. It is placed delicately between the posterior aspects, or back part, of the spine. It prevents extension of the spine while still allowing flexion. The benefit of that is, flexion of the spine opens the spaces and allows the pain to be resolved, whereas extension of the spine compresses, and that’s where a lot of the pain comes in patients with spinal stenosis.
The Vertiflex Superion procedure is minimally invasive. It’s one of those “band-aid” procedures you hear about on television. You walk into our ambulatory surgery center and you’re interviewed by the anesthesiologist, and you have light sedation. A half-inch incision is made in the lumbar spine, the device is placed, and the skin is closed with a simple stitch and bandage. The procedure itself takes 20 minutes or less, and then you walk out.
Results and recovery for each patient are always individualized and always different. But Superion is one of the very few procedures in pain medicine that has five-year data, which in medicine at this point regarding pain treatment options, is a significant number. The five-year data do show up to 80 percent reduction in pain symptoms in patients with spinal stenosis.
Even though this is a simply performed, minimally invasive procedure, there are some risks involved with the Superion device. The two biggest risks we’re always concerned about are 1) infection—that’s why this is done in the operating room under sterile technique; and 2) bleeding. We’re worried about bleeding in patients who specifically are anti-coagulated—those patients who are on Coumadin or Eliquis or other medicines used for cardiac issues. Specifically, for the Superion device, there is a complication, and it’s a fracture of the small bone called the spinous process. This is a very rare complication, and oddly enough, it really has no negative outcomes. It’s not a fracture that we treat or has ever been treated in medicine. It’s a fracture that causes no real significant bad outcomes.
This is not a procedure used for people who have severe or moderately severe stenosis. But if you’re one of those who has a mild to moderate disease, still with symptoms but don’t feel spine surgery is the right option at this time, this is a great procedure.