Written by SMH Senior Communications Editor Kim Savage
Back pain is a common complaint as we age. The pain, which can include numbness, tingling and weakness in the back and legs, often is due to spinal stenosis, a result of aging and wear and tear on the spine from everyday activities.
These changes cause the spinal canal to narrow and pinch the nerves in the lower back.
Earlier this year, Sarasota Memorial’s Pain Care Program launched a new minimally invasive treatment option for people with mild to moderate lumbar spinal stenosis: the Superion spinal spacer. Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) pain care specialist and SMH program Medical Director Dr. Eugene Pereira performed the Suncoast region’s first procedure of this kind at SMH’s outpatient Cape Surgery Center.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration to relieve pain from spinal stenosis, the Superion spacer fills the gap between conservative, nonsurgical treatments and traditional spinal decompression surgery. Manufactured by Vertiflex, the Superion is a small titanium spacer inserted between compressed vertebrae through a small incision in the lower back. It works like a wedge to extend the spine and relieve pinched nerves in the spinal canal that can cause severe leg pain.
Validated by five years of clinical research, the Superion can be implanted during a 30-minute outpatient procedure, either at Sarasota Memorial Hospital or its Cape Surgery Center. The procedure involves no tissue or bone damage and minimal blood loss and is reversible, leaving open all future treatment options.
“The beauty of this device lies in its simplicity and safety,” Dr. Pereira said.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a degenerative condition of the lumbar spine. As we age, the soft tissue or “disks,” between the vertebrae (bones that make up the spine) become worn down. This causes the spinal canal to narrow, which can put pressure on the nerves in the lower back. This pressure can lead to radiating leg, buttock and groin pain. People with LSS typically cannot walk farther than 50 feet without feeling this pain, and they find relief when sitting down or leaning forward.
“Applied to the right patient, it is very effective in bringing them back to their normal life,” Dr. Pereira said. “The Superion is backed by solid data: Patients demonstrated an 80 percent reduction in pain and symptoms up to five years after having the device implanted in their backs. That’s pretty much unheard of in other procedures and therapies for pain.”
He added, “Patients leave the surgery center without pain in their legs. The relief is instantaneous and dramatic.”
The Superion was developed for people with moderate spinal stenosis who have tried six months of conservative treatment without finding relief from pain. It is also for people whose medical history shows the device might be their best treatment option, as traditional spinal surgery could be too demanding.
Click here to watch a short video about the minimally invasive Superion procedure and to hear one patient’s success story.