The X-STOP is a minimally invasive surgical procedure designed to alleviate painful symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. The device is inserted into the back of the spine to prevent a patient from bending too far backward at the narrowed segment, a position that for patients with spinal stenosis can cause leg pain (sciatica) and/or lower back pain.
The device is made by Medtronic and was approved for use by the FDA in November 2005. Since its FDA approval, more than 10,000 X-STOP procedures have been performed in the US.
How the X-STOP works
The X-STOP, which stands for "Interspinous Process Decompression System", is a titanium implant that is inserted into the back at the lumbar spine segment that has symptomatic spinal stenosis (narrowing of the boney canal which can cause crowding of the nerve roots).
The X-STOP implant is placed between the spinous processes in the back of the lumbar level (one or two levels) where the lumbar stenosis is present. Spinous processes are the thin projections from the back of the spinal bones to which muscle and ligaments are attached - they can usually be felt just under the skin as the boney protrusions running down the back of the spine.
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The design of the X-STOP prevents the patient from bending too far backward (hyper-extending his or her spine) at the segments that are treated, but still allows movement bending forward (flexion) and rotating the lower back to a certain extent, so it maintains some of the motion in the low back.
For patients who meet certain criteria, insertion of the X-STOP may be considered as an alternative to an open laminectomy surgery, the current surgical standard of care for leg pain from lumbar spinal stenosis.