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Decompression Surgery versus Interspinous Devices for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: A Systematic Review of the Literature


In this retrospective review study, the authors systematically reviewed the literature to elucidate the efficacy and complications associated with decompression and interspinous devices (ISDs) used in surgeries for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). LSS is a debilitating condition that affects the lumbar spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. However, a comprehensive report on the relative efficacy and complication rate of ISDs as they compare to traditional decompression procedures is currently lacking. The PubMed database was queried to identify clinical studies that exclusively investigated decompression, those that exclusively investigated ISDs, and those that compared decompression with ISDs. Only prospective cohort studies, case series, and randomized controlled trials that evaluated outcomes using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Oswestry Disability Index, or Japanese Orthopedic Association scores were included. A random-effects model was established to assess the difference between preoperative and the 1-2-year postoperative VAS scores between ISD surgery and lumbar decompression. This study included 40 papers that matched our criteria. Twenty-five decompression-exclusive clinical trials with 3,386 patients and a mean age of 68.7 years (range, 31-88 years) reported a 2.2% incidence rate of dural tears and a 2.6% incidence rate of postoperative infections. Eight ISD-exclusive clinical trials with 1,496 patients and a mean age of 65.1 (range, 19-89 years) reported a 5.3% incidence rate of postoperative leg pain and a 3.7% incidence rate of spinous process fractures. Seven studies that compared ISDs and decompression in 624 patients found a reoperation rate of 8.3% in ISD patients vs. 3.9% in decompression patients; they also reported dural tears in 0.32% of ISD patients vs. 5.2% in decompression patients. A meta-analysis of the randomized controlled trials found that the differences in preoperative and postoperative VAS scores between the two groups were not significant. Both decompression and ISD interventions are unique surgical interventions with different therapeutic efficacies and complications. The collected studies do not consistently demonstrate superiority of either procedure over the other but understanding the differences between the two techniques can help tailor treatment regimens for patients with LSS.

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