Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a common albeit painful condition which results in the narrowing of the spinal canal, compressing the nerves that run down the back and into the legs. This may be the cause of pain, weakness, tingling and/or numbness in the lower back area or in the legs. The symptoms often interfere with a patients’ mobility and affects their ability to work, perform daily activities as well as have a debilitating effect on recreation and leisure time.
The initial onset of symptoms is believed to be caused by “increased metabolic demands of compressed nerve roots that have become ischemic due to stenosis.” Other factors that can cause narrowing of the spinal canal include osteoarthritis, bulging discs putting pressure on the spinal cord, or general thickening of ligament tissue. LSS is diagnosed in more than two million patients each year nationwide and is most common in people over 60 years of age due to natural wear and tear.
For years, patients who have suffered from LSS only had two treatment options to choose from: Medication prescribed along with physical therapy along with lifestyle modifications or “Decompression surgery” performed by orthopedic spine surgeons or neurosurgeons. Since, as mentioned, many LSS patients are older, surgery is not always an optimum choice due to both risk-factors during the operation as well as the risks associated with hospitalization and recovery post-op.
Finally there are two minimally invasive options that Dr. De La Peña at SWCA specializes in – making her one of the few in the Ft. Lauderdale area with both the capability and high-level skill to be able to perform these innovative and life-changing procedures. These procedures bridge the gap between conservative treatment and surgery.
The Vertiflex Procedure – A Cutting Edge Treatment for LSS
The Vertiflex Procedure uses a small implant spacer that is placed inside the spine. Once inserted, the spacer’s arms hold the space open without damaging nearby bone or spinal tissue. This creates necessary space while taking pressure off of the nerves which can result in a reduction or elimination of pain in the back or legs.The procedure is both simple and streamlined and can be performed outpatient.
Developed with both safety and comfort at the forefront, the Vertiflex Procedure is the only FDA approved, minimally invasive outpatient treatment that delivers through an indirect decompression device, a treatment for LSS. It has been clinically proven to show reduced or resolved pain in 90% of patients. Other benefits include: no general anesthesia needed, no removal of any bone or tissue, no medications/opioid solutions for pain, and it is completely reversible.
The MILD Procedure
The Mild Procedure works to remove the source of LSS by restoring space into the spinal canal. Through a tiny, 1cm incision, a special sculpting tool is inserted to go in between the bones and scrape out the ligament in order to widen the spinal canal which, in turn, reduces compression of the nerves. An imaging device aids in the procedure as contrast material is injected into the epidural space.
This minimally invasive procedure allows for the spine to remain intact and the mechanics are not disrupted. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and patients recover quickly. Studies have shown that 79% of patients experience a significant reduction in pain and an increase in mobility. Additionally, patients may see a 7 times increase in standing time and a 16 times increase in walking distance. The procedure is also performed without the need for general anesthesia, implants, stitches or medications such as.steroids and opioids. Patients typically resume normal activities within 24 hours with no restrictions.
Dr. Maria Alejandra De La Peña, MD is a board-certified Anesthesiologist with subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine. Her mastery of both the Vertiflex and Mild Procedures make her one of the few doctors in the Fort Lauderdale area to offer an alternative to risky and painful surgery.