Interspinous process device versus conventional decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis: 5-year results of a randomized controlled trial

J Neurosurg Spine 36:909–917, 2022

Interspinous process distraction devices (IPDs) can be implanted to treat patients with intermittent neurogenic claudication (INC) due to lumbar spinal stenosis. Short-term results provided evidence that the outcomes of IPD implantation were comparable to those of decompressive surgery, although the reoperation rate was higher in patients who received an IPD. This study focuses on the long-term results.

METHODS Patients with INC and spinal stenosis at 1 or 2 levels randomly underwent either decompression or IPD implantation. Patients were blinded to the allocated treatment. The primary outcome was the Zurich Claudication Question- naire (ZCQ) score at 5-year follow-up. Repeated measurement analysis was applied to compare outcomes over time.

RESULTS In total, 159 patients were included and randomly underwent treatment: 80 patients were randomly assigned to undergo IPD implantation, and 79 underwent spinal bony decompression. At 5 years, the success rates in terms of ZCQ score were similar (68% of patients who underwent IPD implantation had a successful recovery vs 56% of those who underwent bony decompression, p = 0.422). The reoperation rate at 2 years after surgery was substantial in the IPD group (29%), but no reoperations were performed thereafter. Long-term visual analog scale score for back pain was lower in the IPD group than the bony decompression group (p = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS IPD implantation is a more expensive alternative to decompressive surgery for INC but has comparable functional outcome during follow-up. The risk of reoperation due to absence of recovery is substantial in the first 2 years after IPD implantation, but if surgery is successful this positive effect remains throughout long-term follow-up. The IPD group had less back pain during long-term follow-up, but the clinical relevance of this finding is debatable.

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