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X-Stop Surgery:

Indirect Spinal Distraction & Decompression

At a Glance

  • This surgery separates the two spinous process bones in the spine by placing a spacer between them.
  • The result is an enlargement of the spinal canal and indirect decompression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
  • Indirect spinal distraction decompression treats symptomatic Spinal Stenosis.


In this procedure, also called X-stop surgery, a surgeon makes a small incision in the back and inserts a spacer between the spinous processes, the bone protrusions at the rear of the spine.

One advantage of the operation is that the small incision creates little disruption to the spine muscles. In addition, the operation can sometimes take place under local anesthesia.

However, although appealing in principle, shortfalls include pushing the spine into a forward bent position (kyphosis). Another problem can be that the spine is already being spontaneously fused, which prevents the desired distraction from occurring.

In order for this operation to be successful, there must be motion between the spinous processes to properly insert the implant and provide the necessary distraction. Many people with severe spinal stenosis also have advanced arthritis of the spine that stiffens or naturally fuses the vertebrae together, including the spinous processes, allowing very little to no motion.

If the spinous processes do not move, the X-stop or similar device cannot be inserted properly. If still inserted, the device will not work properly and will fail requiring another surgery for removal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the X-Stop procedure alleviate pain from spinal stenosis?
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