I'm very excited because my doctor showed me a device called an X-stop that could help my mother. She has spinal stenosis so bad, she is always bent forward and can no longer stand up straight because of intense pain. Are these safe for 80-year-old women?
The X-stop is an interspinous spacer which means it is placed between two spinous processes and holds them apart. Those are the bumps you feel along your back. They are knobs of bone that extend out from the vertebral bodies.
By using a device like this, spinal motion into extension (bending backward) is limited. Without extension, there's less chance of pressure on the spinal cord. For conditions like spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), the X-stop seems like a good idea.
The X-stop can be inserted under local anesthesia. The ligaments around the spine are saved from being cut. The device slips right through a slit made in the ligament. So, everyone agrees the X-stop is easy to use. But does it work? That's the question!
Right now, there isn't enough evidence from high-quality designs to answer that question. Early, short-term results show a positive benefit (pain reduction, improved function) in more than three-fourths of the patients. Safety is always a concern but complications such as infection, fracture, increased pain, or implant movement or breakage have been very low so far.
There's no data on larger groups of patients or on the long-term results. Recently, two neurosurgeons from New York reviewed the latest findings on these devices. They commented on the poor quality of some of the research that has been done. They say that the study design was questionable for many of the studies. The authors strongly urge random controlled trials to find out when these devices should be used and with whom.
Your best bet is to make an appointment for your mother with her doctor to investigate possible treatment choices for her condition. There are effective treatments for people with spinal stenosis. She should be able to get some relief from the pain at least and maybe even some improved motion.