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A low-risk implanted device offers an alternative to laminectomy for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis, the most common cause of back surgery in adults over age 50. Inserted through a small incision, the X STOP Interspinous Process Decompression System is a titanium alloy implant placed posterior to neural structures. It's designed to limit extension of the lumbar spine, which exacerbates stenosis of the spinal canal and causes back and leg pain. By keeping the spinal canal open, the X STOP prevents nerve compression and relieves symptoms. Because it's not affixed to bone, it doesn't cause fusion and is completely reversible, so patients can undergo other therapies, including laminectomy, in the future if indicated.
Unlike laminectomy, which requires spinal or general anesthesia, the X STOP is implanted under local anesthesia in about an hour; the patient may walk out of the hospital the same day. The procedure is an especially attractive option for people who aren't good surgical candidates because of advanced age or poor health.
St. Francis Medical Technologies, Inc., recently won Food and Drug Administration approval to market the device. Approved in Europe and Japan in 2001, it's been implanted in an estimated 4,000 patients worldwide.
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