The X-Stop is a device implanted during minimally invasive back surgery and is designed to decompress the spine and relieve symptoms of spinal stenosis.  Patients who have symptoms such as sciatica and lower-back pain which are relieved when bending forward are likely to benefit from the X-Stop.  This device is manufactured by Medtronic and, since being approved in 2005 by the FDA, it is estimated to have been used in more than 10,000 back surgery procedures.  The implant is placed between the spinous processes at the back of the spine (these can be felt just underneath the skin as bony protrusions).  It is usual for just one or two levels to have the X-Stop implanted as more widespread stenosis would require more invasive surgery.


The interspinous process decompression system can, given certain conditions, correct, and prevent, the collapse of intervertebral height when the spinal processes move closer together.  The X-Stop implant is fairly quick to insert, and those undergoing the procedure have a fast recovery time in comparison to more invasive surgery where tissues in the lumbar spine are removed during surgery.  The procedure is conducted under local anaesthetic and the patient usually returns home within the day.

Watch this video depicting an XStop Procedure

XStop Recall of 2008

In 2008 there was a recall of 25,000 X-Stop devices due to a risk of the implant’s wing assembly breaking on insertion.  Few other safety issues have appeared during the brief period of the X-Stop’s use so far and these have usually been connected with pre-existing problems such as spinal degeneration, disc herniation, and vertebral fracture which should have precluded the use of the device and necessitated different types of back surgery.

x stop

X Stop spacer is a spinal implant used to support the spaces between intervertebral discs

Other potential problems preventing the use of the X-Stop include, but are not limited to:

  • allergy to titanium or titanium alloy
  • pre-existing scoliosis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • spinal fractures
  • spondylolisthesis
  • stenosis at several levels
  • infection
  • previous spinal surgeries
  • severe osteoporosis.

Those with spondylolisthesis have an extremely high likelihood of having to have secondary surgery (58% in a study by Verhoof, et al, 2008), and symptom-relief appears to only last in the short term, with a third of patients experiencing no relief at all.  The X-Stop can be an attractive option for those wanting to avoid, or postpone more invasive surgical procedures and for those with conditions which prevent them from having an operation which requires a general anaesthetic.  If, during the procedure, the surgeon discovers anatomical variance which makes the device difficult to place then the surgery should, in most cases, be aborted as the X-Stop could become dislodged after surgery by certain motion.  A different surgical procedure may then be required.

Next Read About: Preparing for XStop Surgery