Interspinous Spacer

Why might I need an interspinous spacer?

An interspinous spacer is inserted during a minimally invasive surgery to treat lumbar spinal stenosis which causes narrowing of the spinal canal. The narrowing is often caused by degenerative or arthritic changes of the discs and the facet joints. Patients with this condition typically complain of pain, numbness, leg weakness and difficulty walking. The spacer is implanted between two bones in your back (spinous process) to create extra space in your back reducing pressure on the spinal nerves. The plastic or titanium device prevents you from bending too far backward, but does allow forward bending.

woman sitting with back pain

Are there any risks with an interspinous spacer?

As with any surgery, there can be risks including:

  • Incision (scar) pain
  • Approximately a one in seven chance that it will not adequately distract the bones and therefore the symptoms will persist
  • Wound infection
  • Sort tissue infection
  • Bruising
  • Spinous process fracture

How to prepare for an interspinous spacer?

Your consultant will provide you with all the relevant information before your procedure along with any preparation you may need to do in the days leading up to your surgery. It is important to tell your consultant about any medicines you may be taking, including any over the counter pain medicines such as paracetamol or aspirin.

You may need radiological (imaging) tests before your surgery, including ultrasound, x-ray or an MRI scan.

Do not eat (this includes chewing gum) or drink for 6 hours before you are due to have surgery otherwise your surgery may be delayed or rescheduled.

Please ensure you have a competent adult available to take you home after you leave OneWelbeck Orthopaedics.

What will happen during my surgery?

An anaesthetist will discuss with you the type of anaesthetic used and the process they will follow. You will be given the opportunity to ask any questions and raise any concerns you may have with the anaesthetist.

The procedure is performed under a local anaesthetic with sedation. You will be asleep during the operation. The operation will take approximately 45 minutes. This allows the insertion of the device using x-ray guidance into the space between the spinous processes (bones you can feel along your back) in such a manner so as to separate (distract) them by the desired amount.

What happens after surgery?

After your surgery, you will be watched by your dedicated nurse at OneWelbeck Orthopaedics for a few hours afterwards. Once you have seen your Consultant you will be able to go home the same day. It is important to rest to give your injury the best chance of healing.

Make sure you follow any advice given to you by your consultant orthopaedic surgeon including any advice on pain relief, wound dressing and any exercises you may be given.

A follow-up appointment will be made for you in 2 weeks to assess your progress and remove any stitches.

Do you want to enquire or book an appointment?

Information For GPs

If you are a GP and would like to refer a patient, ask a question or enquire about our education events, please visit our dedicated GP page, by clicking here.