New Treatment Seeks to Relieve Pain Caused by Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

March 2, 2011

A new treatment is in the process of being researched that may help relieve the agonizing effects of lumbar spinal stenosis.

The Superion Interspinous Spacer (ISS) is a new treatment in the process of being researched that may help relieve the agonizing effects of a common cause of lower back and leg pain, known as lumbar spinal stenosis.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition which is caused by the compression of nerves in the lower back region; this pressure is then applied to the spinal cord and nerve roots, which then can cause leg, back, and groin pain.

The answer to this pain in the past has been physical therapy, pain killers, or receiving temporary relief by sitting/leaning over to relieve the pressure on the nerves.

When non-operative measures fail, patients are usually given the option of receiving spinal decompression or fusion surgery, both procedures that may require invasive surgery to remove bone and ligaments; these procedures also may result in prolonged recovery times.

“In the most aggressive forms, patients can't stand to walk for even a few minutes,” said Dr. Richard Tallarico from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, “So it's very functionally disabling.”

Tallarico and a team of doctors are studying the ISS in order to determine if it is an effective treatment to relieve the pain of this condition.

ISS is in an “investigational medical tool designed to relieve chronic pain that's caused by moderate lumbar spinal stenosis,” according to a news article abstract.

The procedure requires that a surgeon make a half-inch incision in the back of the patient, followed by the insertion of the spacer to the spot where it is needed. Its function is to act as a wedge and to spread the spinal canal open, allowing “the spine to remain in a flexed position, mimicking the sitting position,” said Tallarico.

The recovery process is usually rather short, especially when compared to the recovery process of alternative surgeries. Typically, patients are able to return home the same day or the day following the surgery. It is normally suggested that patients go through physical therapy after the surgery, each rehabilitation regiment differing from patient to patient. The type and amount of physical therapy necessary will be left up to the doctor to decide, depending on the patients recovery needs.

"Compared to what we've had in the past,” Tallarico reported, “this is a much easier way to approach this from both the surgeon and the patient perspective.”

Cheryl Dote can testify to the effectiveness of the spacer. A longtime sufferer from lumbar spinal stenosis, Dote only discovered relief when she found Dr. Tallarico and his clinical study.

"It was 100 percent better” she said about her pain levels after the spacer was inserted; “It's still 100 percent better."

Before the spacer is made available as a viable treatment, it must continue to undergo research in the clinical trial, which is open to anyone in the country over the age of 45 who suffers from moderate lumbar spinal stenosis.

The researchers reported hopes that it would be made available by the FDA in three years.