What is an X-STOP Procedure?

As we get older, parts of our body begin to degenerate. When it comes to our spine, we find that the vertebrae, discs, muscles and ligaments can all be affected. When this happens to the spinal components in the lower back, it becomes known as lumbar stenosis.

Many patients find that their experience of lumbar stenosis will vary, with symptoms increasing and fading with very little warning. The condition is not always progressive, and the severity and duration of symptoms can vary widely.

What are the symptoms of lumbar stenosis?

Symptoms of lumbar stenosis typically develop after the age of 50 and may come on very slowly. The severity of symptoms can vary. Sometimes patients can have good days with very little pain, or bad days where they find their limited mobility makes them very uncomfortable. More than 400,000 U.S. citizens are currently reported as suffering from the condition.

Symptoms of lumbar stenosis include:
  • Sciatica (leg pain that travels into the buttocks).
  • Claudication (leg pain with walking).
  • Tinging, weakness or numbness which can radiate out from a central spot in the lower back, into the buttocks and legs.

What is an X-STOP?

An X-STOP is a titanium device that is inserted into the back of the spine during a surgical procedure. Ordinarily, a patient suffering from lumbar stenosis would experience pain in the legs, buttock and lower back when they bend backwards at this point. The X-STOP implant is placed between the spinous processes – the thin, bony parts that protrude from the back of each vertebrae. The device is designed to prevent the patient from bending too far backwards at the point of stenosis, preventing them from experiencing this pain. The X-STOP also retains forwards-mobility, meaning that the patient can still bend towards things.

Who is a good candidate for X-STOP surgery?

Unfortunately, the X-STOP device is not appropriate for all patients who have symptoms of lumbar stenosis. To be eligible for the procedure, the patient must meet certain criteria which include:
  • A clinical diagnosis of lumbar spine stenosis, which has been confirmed by x-ray, CT or MRI imaging.
  • The stenosis is present at a maximum of two levels of the spine.
  • Chronic leg, buttock and/or groin pain (neurogenic intermittent claudication).
  • Possible lower back pain in addition to the above.
  • Be at least 50 years of age.
  • Significant stenosis present at a maximum of two levels of the spine.
  • Moderate to severe physical impairment on their ability to function that improves when bending forwards at the waist.
  • Completion of at least six months of non-surgical treatment, including physical therapy, pain medication and epidural injections without satisfactory pain relief.

How long does it take to recover from an X-STOP procedure?

X-STOP procedures are carried out under general anesthetic. This means that you may feel confused and unsteady for at least several hours after your operation. Some patients are able to go home the same day, while others will be asked to stay in for a day or two following their procedure.

Your surgeon will be able to advise you how long can you expect to remain in the hospital. If you are able to go home, you should avoid driving, operating machinery and signing legal documents for at least 24 hours as your coordination and reasoning skills may be impaired.

Move slowly After X-STOP Procedure

Regardless of when you leave the hospital, you will be encouraged to get out of bed and start walking around as soon as possible. This will help to minimize the risk of blood clots and swelling, and kick-start the healing process. Before you leave, your surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment around six weeks after your surgery.

Pain relief

You may be given some pain relief in the hours immediately after your operation, but after this, over-the-counter medication should be sufficient to prevent discomfort.

Activities to avoid after X-STOP

In the weeks after your procedure you should avoid:
  • Heavy lifting (upwards of 20 pounds)
  • Climbing more than a few stairs at a time
  • Bending backwards
  • Vigorous physical activity
Your surgeon may refer you to a physical therapist to help with your recovery. You should follow the exercises that they give you as this will help you regain mobility faster.

Most patients can return to their usual day to day activities within two to six weeks after the procedure. Your surgeon may be able to estimate your recovery timeline more accurately based upon your personal medical history.