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The Science Behind Vertiflex: How It Alleviates Spinal Pain

Spinal pain has a detrimental effect on your quality of life. Treatment for this pain depends on its cause and severity.  

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is one of the conditions that doesn’t succumb to non-invasive treatments. While pills and injections can reduce the pain, as the condition progresses, it becomes harder and harder to fight its debilitating symptoms.

An FDA-approved and minimally invasive treatment, Vertiflex can address LSS-related spinal pain and improve your quality of life. Let’s explore the science behind this procedure.

What is Vertiflex?

The Vertiflex procedure involves the placement of a small device called a Superion® Interspinous Spacer. The surgeon inserts the implant between the affected vertebrae. This device spreads the vertebrae apart and creates the much-needed space to relieve pressure on the compressed nerves.

You can benefit from the Vertiflex implant if you have moderate lumbar spinal stenosis that hasn’t responded to non-invasive treatments and experience pain, numbness, and cramping in the legs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vertiflex for treating symptoms associated with LSS in May 2015. 

Understanding Spinal Anatomy and Pain

Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs due to changes to your spine. Aside from deformation that occurs with age, spinal deterioration may hasten as a result of trauma, a tumor, or skeletal dysplasia.

These changes narrow the spinal canal and create pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Compression leads to pain, numbness, and weakness in the lower back and legs. The goal of the Vertiflex procedure is to reduce the pressure that’s causing these debilitating symptoms.

Other causes of spinal pain include herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, spinal arthritis, and spinal fractures. So far, the FDA has only approved Vertiflex for treating moderate LSS symptoms.

The Mechanism of Action of Vertiflex

Vertiflex is a minimally invasive alternative to the traditional spinal decompression surgery performed on patients with LSS.

When the surgeon places the Superion® Indirect Decompression System between the affected vertebrae, it acts as a spacer, preventing the vertebrae from collapsing onto each other and reducing the narrowing of the spinal canal. This alleviates pressure on the compressed nerves and reduces LSS symptoms.

The Vertiflex Procedure Step-by-Step

The Vertiflex procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis. Here is what to expect:

  • The patient lies face down on the table
  • The surgeon administers local anesthesia and makes a small incision in the midline of the patient’s lower back
  • With the help of an X-ray device, the surgeon determines the proper position for the implant and proceeds with the implementation
  • Once the implant is in place, the surgeon closes the incision with sutures and adhesive strips

The procedure takes around 30 minutes. Patients are typically able to return home after a few hours.

Clinical Evidence Supporting Vertiflex

The Vertiflex procedure is supported by 5-year Level 1 evidence for treating moderate LSS. Several studies, including short-term and five-year follow-up studies, have demonstrated that this procedure is effective in relieving the symptoms of LSS. It has proven to have impressive advantages over traditional open-spine surgical procedures.

Benefits and Potential Risks

The key benefits of the Vertiflex procedure include:

  • Minimally invasive approach
  • LLS symptom relief, such as leg pain and weakness
  • Preserved range of motion in the spine
  • Shorter recovery time compared to open surgery

While minimally invasive, Vertiflex is still a surgery that comes with several risks:

  • Infection at the incision site
  • Bleeding or hematoma
  • Nerve damage
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia or implant materials

Studies demonstrate that 84% of patients experience positive five-year outcomes after undergoing the Vertiflex implantation. Since the procedure is still relatively new, data on 10-year outcomes isn’t yet available.

Vertiflex for Spinal Pain Treatment in Middle Tennessee

If you have moderate LSS and believe you are a candidate for the procedure, consult a healthcare professional about your candidacy.

At The Pain Institute of Middle Tennessee, we have an experienced medical team that can offer extensive advice about spinal pain treatment options. For more information, contact our team today.