"MILD" procedure providing relief for patients with back pain

The MILD procedure helps relieve back pain in patients.
Published: .
Updated: .

A new procedure is providing relief for patients with back pain.

The procedure, called "minimally invasive lumbar decompression" - or MILD - is for patients that have lumbar spinal stenosis. The patients are typically older and not good candidates for a big, open surgery.

Joy Hoots is enjoying simple pleasures once again, like having lunch with her granddaughter and even cruising the retail area at Cracker Barrel, all time on her feet that she couldn't take before because of chronic lower back pain in the last three years.

"I just didn't have a life, you know," said Hoots.

The 78-year-old went to see Franciscan spine specialist Dr. Robert Prince and he recommended the MILD procedure. Unlike other back procedures, this isn't about modifying bones, discs or nerves, but instead removing a bit of ligament, which may be restricting blood flow in the spine.

"We go through a small device that is really like a fat needle and put a device through the straw, so to speak, in order to thin the ligaments. Back here, we take small pieces out under local anesthesia and that thins the ligament back here and opens the space where the spine runs through, so that the blood can get to it," Prince said.

It's an outpatient procedure that lasts less than an hour.

"I think this is a very, very clever idea, because usually what we try to do in medicine is make things perfect again," Prince said. "So the idea of doing just a little bit of good, just opening up a little bit to make a difference between walking for five minutes and 30 minutes and not fixing it entirely, that is a bit of a new concept."

Prince is one of about a dozen Indiana physicians and among a select group nationally certified in the Vertos MILD procedure.

"I'm very happy. So far, we have treated over 10 patients in the past six weeks, I'd say. The results have been great and statistically, this has been studied over and over and about 70 percent of patients will get about 70 percent relief," Prince said.

Joy's procedure was in April, and she says she walked to the car instead of using a scooter, and within weeks felt like she could add anything to her schedule without the need to save steps.

"It's just, why suffer when you can get something done for it, you know?" she said.

A Cleveland Clinic study monitored 40 patients for a year after they had the MILD procedure and found standing time for patients increased from an average of eight minutes to nearly an hour.