The Vertiflex procedure is a minimally invasive procedure that provides effective relief of the long-term pain from lumbar spinal stenosis. Frequently, symptoms of spinal stenosis can be relieved with the increased room in the canal which occurs when the vertiflex spacer is deployed to prevent crowding that occurs with certain movements of the spine such as when standing or walking. This can result in a more upright position, improved walking and standing endurance, and reduced back pain. It does not prevent other treatment options from being done in the future.
Candidates for Vertiflex
Patients who have symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis are candidates for the Vertiflex procedure. The symptoms are back pain, leg pain, and/or leg fatigue when standing or walking and relief of these symptoms when sitting or leaning forward as on a grocery cart. Most insurance companies require that the patient fail to improve pain and function with epidural steroid injections, physical therapy, and medication therapy such as NSAIDs, gabapentin, or tricyclic antidepressants. Medicare plans including advantage plans, VA, US Military and HIS cover the Vertiflex procedure; commercial insurance coverage varies and would have to be pre-approved which PCI does for all patients if available.
The Vertiflex Procedure
The Vertiflex procedure is done in the outpatient surgery department of the hospital. It is generally performed under local anesthesia and mild sedation provided by the anesthetist. The Vertiflex procedure takes about 1 hour to perform and most patients return home shortly after completion to full activities without restrictions allowed in 24 hours. The tools used are disposable and not reused; they are FDA approved for the procedure. The procedure is done through small incisions that are about the size of a baby aspirin in diameter. Steroids are not typically administered during the procedure and no stitches are left afterward to remove.
Risks of Vertiflex Procedure
The complications from the Vertiflex procedure are low frequency and similar to an epidural steroid injection. As with most surgical procedures, serious adverse events, some of which can be fatal, can occur including heart attack, cardiac arrest, allergic reaction to medication during surgery, stroke, and embolism or blood clots to the lung. Other risks include infection and bleeding, spinal cord and nerve injury that can, in rare instances, cause paralysis, and dislodgement of the device from the correct location. The procedure is not for everyone but PCI providers will thoroughly discuss the risks, upsides and downsides in a comprehensive way so you can make an informed decision with the best information available.