As an Advanced Practice Provider (APP), you are an integral part in helping patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) get on the path to lasting relief.

In this webinar workshop, led by our panel of mild® experts, APPs Ashley Comer, NP, Marie Zambelli, NP, Kelsey Kimball, PA, Lauren Cote, NP, Patrick McGinn, PA, Kristen Klein, NP, discuss how patient education and proper outcomes assessment play an important role in optimizing patient outcomes after the mild® Procedure.

Access the webinar here:

Looking for more info on mild® patient identification criteria?
Check out our blog: Identifying & Educating mild® Patients – APP Guidance

Sign up to stay informed and receive the latest updates!

Sign Up Now

According to our Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Advisory Board, imaging review, a key aspect of mild® patient candidate identification, is often not included in initial schooling. To help APPs learn the basics of image review, become more familiar with identifying anatomical landmarks, and understand how to confirm if a patient is a candidate for the mild® Procedure, we asked James Lynch—an APP with the Pain Consultants of San Diego—to walk us through his tips and techniques for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) review. In the following article, he shares pearls for becoming confident in imaging review and provides a series of videos so you can follow his step-by-step approach to determine if patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) should make the move to mild®.

As an APP in an Interventional Pain Medicine practice that offers the mild® Procedure, reviewing MRI images to determine the presence of hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (HLF) is a critical aspect of my role. Prior to joining this practice, I had very little experience reviewing MRI images. It was not part of the core curriculum while training to become an APP, and it was not an area that I felt very confident in. I’ve become more familiar and proficient with imaging review; however, I can say that it’s much more straightforward than it may initially seem. Through hands-on experience, by sharing clinical pearls among peers, and by watching step-by-step videos like those included in this article, I became competent, comfortable, and confident performing image reviews to identify mild® patient candidates—and I know other APPs can too.

Why Is Imaging Review Important?

We know that up to 85% of spinal canal narrowing is caused by thickened ligament. When we see patients with symptomatic LSS, if HLF is present, we will likely advance to mild® to provide patients long-term relief using a therapy that has a safety profile equivalent to an epidural steroid injection (ESI), but with lasting results. Being able to review a basic MRI empowers me to identify patients who may benefit from the mild® Procedure and confidently present my recommendations to them. This confidence helps build trust between me and my patients, and makes them feel more comfortable and assured prior to scheduling their mild® Procedure. Having more patients move to mild® means that I’m giving my patients a chance to achieve clinically meaningful, statistically significant improvements in mobility, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and pain reduction on the Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS). It’s also incredibly rewarding to hear patients tell me about what they’re able to do now that they can walk further and do more activities than they could before.


Getting Started: Reviewing the MRI Report

LSS is highly recognizable by the signs and symptoms patients commonly exhibit, including pain, numbness, or heaviness when standing or walking, and finding relief by sitting, bending forward, or sleeping curled in the fetal position. When we see these signs in our patients, we’ll order an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and determine whether the patient is a good candidate for the mild® Procedure.

When we request an MRI, we’ll get a report and the imaging back for that patient. During my review of the report, I look line-by-line, specifically confirming whether the report notes central canal stenosis. It is also helpful to make note of other contributors to central canal stenosis (such as enlarged facets, disc bulge, etc.) in order to properly prepare a patient for potential follow-up expectations.

Light bulb illustration icon

Tip: As you gain comfort with image review, practice reviewing the MRI first and report second to confirm their diagnoses.

In the example shown here, I would note the following:

  • At L2 or L3, the patient has mild-to-moderate bilateral facet and ligamentum hypertrophy; however, the central canal remains patent and the patient does not have central canal stenosis at this level.
  • At L3-L4, the patient has moderate to severe central canal stenosis with a residual canal diameter of 6 mm.

Light bulb illustration

Reminder: You can also request that the radiology report include a measurement of the HLF, which can make it easier to review.

Because I have confirmed the presence of central canal stenosis in the report, I’ll then review the imaging to determine whether the patient is a candidate for the mild® Procedure. You can also take the reverse approach and review the imaging first, and then use the radiology report as a confirmation of your own findings.


Step 1: Linking the Sagittal and Axial Views

A note on software: While the specific software demonstrated in this blog is Ambra Health, much of the imaging software used today is similar in function and review procedures. Whether you’re using Ambra Health, Sharp, or another software option, the tips and tricks demonstrated in this blog should be consistent, regardless of the software you’re using.

In pulling up the images, I typically begin setting up the images to facilitate a clear and efficient review process. Begin by adjusting the layout of the software to show 2 images at the same time.

On the left-hand side, we will show the sagittal view, or vertical cross-section of the patient. On the right-hand side, the axial view, or horizontal cross-section of the patient, will be displayed.

Press the “Link” command in the system software to correlate the images together and select the STIR images (T2 weighted images).

star illustration

Tip: The reason I use the T2 image is because the cerebral spinal fluid actually brightens up, making it a lot easier to assess the spinal canal.


Step 2: Identifying Anatomical Landmarks

Image showing Vertebral Body

  1. Vertebral Body
  2. Central Canal
  3. Epidural Fat
  4. Ligamentum Flavum
  5. Spinous Process
  6. Exiting Nerve Root Space Under Pedicle Facet Joint
  7. Facet

image showing ligamentum flavum in patient suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis

My specific area of interest in evaluating the mild® patient candidate is the small black area, which is the ligamentum flavum, highlighted in the image here.

image showing hypertrophic ligamentum flavum compressing the nerves

In the small white area, we can see the central canal where the nerves are housed. In this image, we can see that the canal is very small, with very little white showing. This is consistent with central canal stenosis, and in this case, we can see clearly that the hypertrophic ligamentum flavum is compressing the nerves.

image showing comparison of the healthy central canal

By moving our image up to L2-L3, we can see an excellent comparison of the healthy central canal. The large white area shows that at this level, the thin black ligament is not compressing the nerves.

sagittal view showing where the spinal canal narrows where the central canal is stenosed

In the sagittal view, you’ll be able to see clearly where the spinal canal narrows, and this is helpful in identifying all levels where the central canal is stenosed.

We can also see here that the patient has a disc bulge, indicative of multi-factorial central canal stenosis.

It’s important to remember that comorbidities are common among LSS patients—in fact, a Level-1 clinical study of mild® patients demonstrated that just 5% of patients presented with central canal stenosis only. The presence of comorbidities, such as foraminal narrowing, lateral recess narrowing, or facet hypertrophy DO NOT RULE OUT patients as mild® Procedure candidates. Indeed, the same clinical study found that the majority of patients with comorbidities achieved an ODI improvement of ≥10 points at 2-year follow-up.


Step 3: Measuring the Ligamentum Flavum

Using the length tool in the software, I can draw a line across the ligament (the dark area indicated in the image below) to obtain the ligament measurement.

image showing an HLF measurement of 6.38 mm

Here, the measurement clearly shows an HLF of 6.38 mm. I will then repeat this measurement process at each of the levels that are affected by central stenosis (per the report, and as seen in the sagittal view).

star icon

Tip: As a reminder, any patients with HLF ≥2.5 mm may be considered a candidate for the mild® Procedure.


My Pearls for Easier Imaging Review

Once you become familiar with imaging review, you’ll develop your own tips and tricks that make the process easier and more efficient for you. Here are a few things that I suggest that can help when you’re just getting started:

  1. Request an HLF measurement in the report. If I see a patient that is suffering from “Shopping Cart Syndrome” and exhibiting symptoms consistent with lumbar stenosis with neurogenic claudication, I’ll put the primary diagnosis code as “lumbar stenosis with neurogenic claudication” on the MRI request. I’ll also add a note to the order for the radiologist to measure the ligamentum flavum at the levels that are being affected and are stenotic. This can also be programmed into your EMR system as an automated note for every lumbar MRI request.
  2. Scroll to find the best view. When the MRI is capturing images, it’s going to be at different depths, and may vary depending on the position of the patient. After I select the level of interest, I’ll typically scroll through several images (using the up and down arrow keys on my keyboard) to make sure I have the clearest view of the ligament and central canal.
  3. Find your level by starting at the sacrum. It’s possible to determine which level you’re looking at by counting from the sacrum. I also keep in mind that L5-S1 is where the spine really starts to have curvature.
  4. Focus on restoring functionality. If HLF is present in the MRI, we can feel confident about a decision to move to mild®, to provide LSS patients long-term relief using a therapy that has a safety profile equivalent to an ESI, but with lasting results. It’s common that you’ll see comorbidities that will need to be addressed eventually, but we’ll often begin with the mild® Procedure to restore functionality and help patients get back on their feet.

An Ideal mild® Procedure Candidate

In this video, you can see an end-to-end example of the imaging review for an ideal mild® case. In under 5 minutes, you can see how I:

  • Review the report: Start going line-by-line. At L4-L5, the patient appears to have bulking of the ligamentum flavum, resulting in narrowing of the central canal with no other noted comorbidities.
  • Link sagittal and axial images: After selecting a 2-image layout, select the T2 images, where cerebral spinal fluid brightens up, making it easier to identify the spinal canal.
  • Evaluate the level of central canal stenosis: Even though the radiologist has provided a report, I like to review the nuances of the images, knowing that I’m looking specifically to determine whether the patient is a good candidate for mild®.
  • Measure the ligamentum flavum: With my length tool, I can measure the ligament to make sure the HLF is ≥2.5 mm. In this case, an HLF of 4.18 mm confirms the patient is a candidate for mild®.

What if MRI isn’t an Option?

When a patient can’t have an MRI, we will instead send them in for a computed tomography (CT), ideally with a myelogram. A myelogram will highlight these relevant anatomical structures, so you can see the ligament and determine the patient’s candidacy. Even if a myelogram is not an option, be sure to indicate a primary diagnosis for lumbar stenosis when you order the CT, and the radiologist will then assess that patient for lumbar stenosis and HLF.

Using Imaging to Support Patient Education

When patients are in the office, I’ll often bring my laptop into the exam room and show them their imaging on screen. Being able to see their own anatomy, and specifically the hypertrophic ligament pressing on the nerves, is incredibly helpful to demonstrate this root cause of their LSS.

Then, I can also use the imaging to clearly point out how mild® addresses a major root cause of LSS by removing excess ligament tissue and leaving no implants behind. I’ll also show them where the nerves are being compressed and educate them about how mild® restores space in the spinal canal, which reduces the compression of the nerves. Most patients understand how the mild® Procedure works much more easily when they can see the images themselves, and it also helps them realize how the mild® Procedure can provide long-term relief and restore mobility.

Embracing Imaging Review: Don’t Be Intimidated­­—Practice Makes Perfect!

When I first started with imaging review, I was much less comfortable and confident than I am today. Knowing that our practice is committed to helping more patients move to mild®, I recognized that becoming comfortable with imaging review was a critical aspect of my role. Even though MRI review was not something included in my initial APP education, I realized that becoming proficient gave me an opportunity to bring additional value to our patients and practice.

The best way I found to get comfortable with imaging review was to dive in and review previous cases so I could become familiar with the anatomy and structures. Beyond hands-on experience, there are resources that offer additional support, including:

  • Online video resources: There are many videos available online that walk you through MRI reviews and will help you become more familiar with some of the structures.
  • Clinicians in your practice: Work with other physicians and APPs in your practice to hone your skills. I’d often review an MRI, and then share my findings with the physician I work with to confirm that they were seeing the same diagnosis that I saw.
  • Webinars: View webinars geared towards APP education, especially in imaging, such as The APP Imaging Workshop—A Collaborative Approach to mild® Patient Selection here.
  • Your Vertos representative: Our Vertos representative has been a great resource for our practice and is especially supportive when it comes to imaging. Connect with your representative to schedule a lunch-and-learn or meeting to review images together and access the latest educational materials.

With additional practice and experience, you’ll quickly become much more comfortable with imaging review. You’ll also notice how many of your patients with LSS have HLF and are candidates for the mild® Procedure. By putting more patients on the path to lasting relief with mild®, you’ll get to see first-hand how regaining mobility can be a life-changing improvement for the patients in your care.

Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) play a vital role in helping patients understand their lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) diagnosis and treatment recommendations. By developing strong provider-patient communication, you’re taking the first step towards achieving positive outcomes and enhancing the patient experience.

Why is patient education so important?

  • Limited health literacy is linked to a spectrum of suboptimal health outcomes, including increased reports of poor physical functioning, pain, limitations in activities of daily living, and poor mental health status (Source)
  • Only about 12 percent of U.S. adults demonstrate proficient health literacy skills (Source)
  • Limited health literacy disproportionately affects adults aged 65 and older (Source)

Based on the data above, it is clear that patients over 65 years of age–the group most likely to suffer from LSS–may need more support to understand their condition and treatment plan. With the recognition that both lumbar spinal stenosis and poor health literacy can increase your patients’ susceptibility to poor physical functioning, pain, and limitations in activities of daily living, APPs should feel especially empowered to engage patients. This includes helpful education and dialogue that supports their understanding and helps them feel more comfortable taking the next step on their path to lasting relief.

In the following article, you will find step-by-step guidance and pragmatic suggestions that you can start using today, to help you ensure that your patients leave their consultation feeling confident and excited about their opportunity to make the move to mild®.

Watch: See APP Ashley Comer’s complete talk track for presenting mild® to her LSS patients.

Teach Patients About mild® in 3 Easy Steps

Use the mild® patient brochure as a tool and follow these simple steps to help your patients better understand their lumbar spinal stenosis diagnosis and the benefits of the mild® Procedure.

Do you experience back and leg pain when you stand or walk? Have steroid injections stopped working? Get back on your feet with the mild® procedure

STEP 1: Explain LSS in Plain Language

LSS is a complex condition that can be challenging for patients to understand. It is important that patients comprehend the cause of their LSS symptoms, so they feel informed and confident in moving forward with a treatment plan.

icon of ringing bell

Skip the Medical Jargon

Instead of using complex medical terms or acronyms, simplify your explanation with common words, phrases, and analogies to help patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options.

According to the CDC, nearly 9 out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use personal health information when it’s filled with unfamiliar or complex terms. (Source)

On the first page of the mild® patient brochure, you’ll find helpful illustrations that demonstrate the anatomical changes associated with LSS and the symptoms patients typically experience. During your patient consultation, be sure to highlight:

Infographic showing the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS)

  • Compression of the nerves in the lower back.
    • LSS can develop as a result of aging and natural wear and tear on the spine
    • Thickened ligament is a major root cause of lumbar spinal stenosis
    • Symptoms are caused by pressure on spinal nerves
  • LSS symptoms affect daily life, causing pain and limited mobility. ASK YOUR PATIENT:
    • Do you feel pain, numbness, tingling, or heaviness when standing or walking?
    • Are your symptoms relieved by sitting, bending forward, or sleeping in the fetal position?

icon of a speech bubble

Relate LSS to Common, Lived Experiences

Many APPs and physicians use common, real-life analogies to help patients identify and understand their LSS symptoms. A common analogy that many patients may relate to is the “shopping cart syndrome.” Explaining that patients with lumbar spinal stenosis often feel relief when bending over a shopping cart (because it reduces pressure on the compressed nerves) can help patients recognize how this condition impacts their daily life.

STEP 2: Make the Discussion Specific to Your Patient

Once you’ve established the common signs and symptoms of LSS, demonstrate what the MRI shows for that specific patient. Turn to the last page of the mild® patient brochure, where you can use the diagrams provided. Drawing directly on the patient brochure, indicate the following:

What does your imaging show?

  • In the sagittal view on the left, note which level(s) are affected
  • In the axial view on the right, show how their thickened ligament appears in the MRI, being sure to draw over the nerves to demonstrate the impact on the central canal

Watch: See how APP Ashley Comer uses the illustrations in the mild® patient brochure to demonstrate her patients’ specific areas of stenosis.

You can also accompany the spinal illustrations in the mild® patient brochure with an added tool, such as a spine model or the patient’s MRI to reinforce the anatomical positioning of the problem or validate the diagnosis, respectively.

STEP 3: Highlight how the mild® Procedure Works

Once patients fully understand their condition, walk them through all of the reasons why you recommend they make the move to mild®. If you turn back to the beginning of the brochure (or access the same information in the mild® patient flip chart) and review the remaining pages, you can quickly cover the advantages of mild® relative to other treatment options, and prepare your patients for what to expect during and after their mild® Procedure.

Page 2: Comparing Treatment Options

Infographic showing the benefits of the mild® procedure compared to other treatments for lumbar spinal stenosis

  • The chart in the center of the page quickly presents mild® benefits in comparison to other treatment options for LSS, such as epidural steroid injections, spacer implants, or open surgery
  • Below the chart, the call out reinforces the unique advantages of mild® as the only treatment with a safety profile similar to an injection, and the lasting relief expected from back surgery

MOVE2mild®

Because epidural steroid injections (ESIs) were historically the standard of care for lumbar spinal stenosis patients, your patient may be expecting you to recommend another injection. You can explain that the data shows that there is no benefit to giving more than one ESI before mild®, and that giving more than one ESI delays the patient from receiving the longer-lasting, more effective mild® Procedure.

Page 3: How mild® Removes the Problem and Leaves Nothing Behind

Infographic showing an illustrations of spinal compression before and after the mild® procedure

  • mild® addresses a major root cause of LSS by removing excess ligament tissue
  • mild® reduces compression on the nerves to restore mobility and relieve pain
  • mild® doesn’t eliminate future treatment options, as no major structural anatomy of the spine is altered

Page 4: What to Expect on the Day of the mild® Procedure

Infographic explaining what a patient can expect the day they will receive the mild® procedure

  • Short outpatient procedure
  • Can be performed using local anesthetic and light sedation
  • Incision smaller than the size of a baby aspirin
  • Patients typically resume normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions

Page 5: What to Expect After the mild® Procedure

Infographic showing proven results of the mild® procedure in treating lumbar spinal stenosis

  • mild® has an 85% patient satisfaction rate
  • mild® continues to improve patient functionality over time
    • Over one year, average standing time increased 7x from 8 to 56 minutes with less pain
    • Over one year, average walking distance increased 16x from 246 to 3,956 feet with less pain
  • mild® helped 88% of patients avoid back surgery for at least 5 years, while providing lasting relief
  • mild® is covered by Medicare (including Medicare Advantage), the VA, U.S. Military, & IHS. Commercial coverage varies.

Setting Expectations Supports Patient Success

icon of a bell ringing

Every year, thousands of lumbar spinal stenosis patients are able to stand longer and walk farther with less pain thanks to the mild® Procedure, but those results aren’t achieved overnight. Improvements in patient functionality are typically achieved over time, with patients gradually increasing standing time and walking distance. If you set expectations in advance, patients may be more excited and satisfied to see their own functional improvements over time.

BONUS: Tips to Make Patient Education More Impactful
  1. Project confidence. When you showcase your knowledge and present information in ways patients can easily understand, they may feel more comfortable making decisions and following your recommendations.
  2. Encourage patients to ask questions. Take a moment between steps to confirm your patient understands the key points before moving to the next point.
  3. Discuss the benefits of reconditioning. When setting expectations around recovery, discuss the ways that patients can participate in improving their functionality. Help your patients get back on their feet by suggesting progressively longer walks, or even physical therapy.

Better Patient Education Helps Drive Success with mild®

LSS patients rely on APPs as critical members of their care team. Across the patient journey from diagnosing your patients’ LSS to finding relief with the mild® Procedure, APPs are key in supporting patients, helping them understand their condition, and feeling confident about their decision to make the move to mild®.

At Vertos, we recognize and support the role of APPs and are committed to providing education and resources that help you put more LSS patients on the path to lasting relief.

Don’t miss out on the latest and greatest tips and tools from Vertos.

  1. Register as an APP to stay informed of new peer-to-peer learning and other educational opportunities
  2. Follow us on social
  3. Connect with your Vertos rep for educational resources

mild® is often referred to as a “simple little procedure” that can make a major impact on the quality of life and mobility for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients. Minimally invasive lumbar decompression (mild®) removes the problem and leaves nothing behind—no implants, no stitches—allowing patients to stand longer and walk farther with less pain. A short, outpatient procedure, it is performed through a single 5.1mm incision in the patient’s lower back, addressing a major root cause of lumbar spinal stenosis by removing excess ligament tissue. Patients typically resume normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions.

So, how do practices describe this “simple little procedure” to their patients? We like to say the mild® Procedure is similar to “removing a kink in a drinking straw,” reducing the compression on the nerves in the lower back to restore mobility and relieve pain.

Photos showing before and after images of a patient treated with the mild® Procedure and suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis

We asked a group of mild® physicians how they describe the mild® Procedure and its big, life-changing potential to their patients and referring physicians. We heard a lot of fun analogies—here are a few of our favorites.

ESI is like

Illustration of tape dispenser

mild® is like

illustration of glue bottle

Dr. Peter Pryzbylkowski; Linwood, NJ

I describe mild® to my patients as a “quality-of-life procedure.”

I walk them through my algorithm and I say, “Listen: I can put a temporary Band-Aid [solution] on this for you with an epidural steroid injection (ESI), or I have a tool in my toolkit that could hopefully fix this for you where it’s not just a Band-Aid. It really improves your quality of life.”

Once you frame it this way for patients—as an epidural being a Band-Aid, with mild® being more of a definitive procedure—you have a captive audience that typically wants to go ahead and get a percutaneous decompression.


For patients who know cardiology, ESI is like

illustration of a pill bottle

mild® is like

illustration of a stent

Dr. Brian Durkin; Port Jefferson, NY

Our patients are generally familiar with cardiology procedures. So, I tell them lumbar spinal stenosis treatment options are similar to the options available for patients with coronary artery stenosis. You can either treat them with meds to improve blood flow or put in a stent to open it up more permanently. The mild® Procedure restores space around the spinal cord, just like a stent restores space in your blood vessels.


ESI is like

illustration of a clogged drain

mild® is like

illustration of an unclogged drain

Dr. Brian J. Goentzel; Wichita, KS

I tell patients: “Your spinal canal is kind of like your sink when it gets clogged. If your sink is really clogged, you can pour Drano down it all you want. But that’s a temporary fix, and it doesn’t work long-term. At some point, you’ve got to get in and unclog the drain.”


ESI is like

illustration of a room cluttered with furniture

mild® is like

illustration of a room with an appropriate amount of furniture

Dr. Erin Chaney; Jacksonville, NC

I describe how mild® works like fixing a room that is overcrowded with furniture. I tell them:

“Imagine a room full of tables and chairs, and you just can’t move around. What I am going to do today is just take a couple of chairs out to make some more space, so your anatomical structures can move around easily.”


LSS is like

illustration of too many people in an elevator

mild® is like

illustration of a normal amount of people in an elevator

Dr. Dawood Sayed; Kansas City, KS

“When I describe what stenosis/LSS does to a patient’s spinal canal, I compare it to having too many people in an elevator. What we do with mild® is open the door and let a few people out so that the folks remaining have more room to move freely for the ride.”


How do you describe mild® to your patients? If you have an effective analogy you use to talk about the benefits of mild® or its approach, we’d love to hear about it. Email us today. If you need additional patient resources, please contact your Vertos representative.

As a mild® provider, it’s important to brand yourself as a mild® practice to attract new patients and educate people in your community who are searching for relief from lower back pain and mobility issues. By presenting the mild® Procedure as part of your treatment offerings, you can highlight that your practice provides advanced lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) treatment options for potential patients searching for alternative solutions to epidural steroid injections (ESIs), pain medication, or back surgery.

The following patient education, healthcare professional, and digital (web/social) resources will help ensure your practice is well-equipped in identifying and educating the community and your referral networks about LSS, and how mild® can play an effective role in a patient’s care path.

Outfit your practice so patients know you offer the mild® Procedure.

Flip Chart

Use the 2-sided presentation tool to walk your patients through LSS, their treatment options, and what to expect with the mild® Procedure.

Patient Brochure

Send patients home with a reference tool to remind them of your consultation and reinforce your recommendations. Mark up the “What does your imaging show” page to identify stenosis level(s) and indicate contributing factors to spinal canal narrowing. Patient Brochure now available in Spanish.

Posters

Let patients know you offer an alternative to ESIs. Display posters in the lobby, exam rooms, and hallways so they can learn about mild® while they wait to see you. Two sizes available: small (18” x 24”) and large (24” x 36”).

ESI Patient Postcard

Distribute with routine discharge information so ESI patients know that if their symptoms don’t improve, their next step may be mild®.

Move More Questionnaire

Obtain a baseline assessment of each patient’s functionality to compare outcomes after mild®. Set expectations by reminding the patient that reconditioning and mobility improvement increases over time.

Patient Education Video

Stream the video on lobby screens and during consultations to help patients understand the procedure and its benefits, through visually engaging animations. The video includes but does not require audio.

Click the “Share” button on YouTube to get the embed code or contact us to request an MP4 format.

Your mild® Practice Blueprint

Learn more about how to outfit your practice, optimize resources, and guide patients through their treatment path. Contact your Vertos representative for a copy of the blueprint.

Add information about mild® to your website to help educate patients about the procedure.

Website Text

Copy and paste the following directly onto your site:

About the mild® Procedure

mild® is a short, outpatient treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) that restores space in the spinal canal to help improve back and leg pain.* Using specialized tools and imaging, mild® addresses a major root cause of LSS by removing thickened ligament through an incision smaller than the size of baby aspirin, leaving no implants behind, only a Band-Aid.

The minimally invasive mild® Procedure has a safety profile similar to epidural steroid injections but with lasting results, and patients typically return to normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions.* mild® is covered nationwide by Medicare (all ages, all plan types, including Medicare Advantage) the VA, U.S. Military & IHS. Commercial coverage varies.

Visit www.mildprocedure.com for more info.

*Clinical data available: https://www.vertosmed.com/patients/

Patient Education Video

Embed the video on webpages and in social posts to help patients understand the procedure and its benefits, through visually engaging animations.

Click the “Share” button on YouTube to get the embed code.

Website Images

Include Before/After mild® illustrations to showcase how mild® reduces compression on the nerves.

Find a mild® Doctor Tool

If you are actively offering mild® to your community, make sure they can find you! Check our Find a mild® Doctor website resource to make sure all of your office locations are included.

Connect with us: Stay up-to-date with the latest information on the mild® Procedure and tag us in your posts!

Social Media Templates

Incorporate these ready-to-use social media templates into your feed. Include hashtags: #mildprocedure #vertosmedical #lookfortheligament #MOVE2mild #lumbarspinalstenosis #lss.

Now Offering mild®

We are excited to announce that we offer the minimally invasive mild® Procedure for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). This short, outpatient treatment removes a major root cause of lumbar spinal stenosis through an incision smaller than the size of a baby aspirin and has shown to significantly improve LSS pain and mobility.

Get in touch with [PRACTICE] to see if you may be a candidate for the mild® Procedure at [PHONE #] or [WEBSITE].

Symptoms of LSS

Pain, numbness, heaviness, and tingling in the lower back, legs, or buttocks when standing or walking are common symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) that can make doing everyday tasks unbearable. The minimally invasive mild® Procedure addresses a major root cause of stenosis, by restoring space in the spinal canal to help improve back and leg pain.

Find out if you may benefit from the mild® Procedure by contacting [PRACTICE] at [PHONE #] or [WEBSITE] today.

Patient Education Video

A common condition typically found in those over age 50, lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) contributes to pain and mobility issues and may impact the ability to perform simple tasks. Watch this short patient education video to learn how the minimally invasive mild® Procedure may help those with LSS achieve lasting relief.

Find out if you may benefit from the mild® Procedure by contacting [PRACTICE] at [PHONE #] or [WEBSITE] today.

Click the “Share” button on YouTube to embed the video in your social post.

Additional content and tools designed specifically for APPs to help identify and educate patients.

mild® Quick Reference Card

Use the handy reference tool to ID mild® patients, including symptoms, indications, and benefits. Perfectly sized to fit in your lab coat pocket, on your badge reel, or clip to a workstation. Check out our blog Identifying & Educating mild® Patients – APP Guidance for patient identification tips and best practices.

Personalized, Virtual, or On-site Training

Vertos representatives are available to answer questions or deliver customized training sessions aligned to your team’s learning priorities. Reach out to your local representative to schedule a training.

Build connections with referring physicians to help attract more patients to your practice.

Referring Practices

Ensure physical therapists, primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and other practices/specialties in your area who treat patients with chronic low back pain know:

  1. How to identify the most common symptoms of LSS; look for the “Shopping Cart Syndrome”
  2. Your interventional pain practice offers minimally invasive options

Patient Education Materials

Provide patient education materials such as the Patient Brochure and ESI Postcard. Remember to attach your practice information or affix a label.

Move More Questionnaire

Keep referring practices informed of their patients’ progress after mild®. Make sure they are aware of the functional improvements and how consistent those results are with other patients in your practice.

Word-of-mouth can be one of the most powerful tools to grow your mild® practice. Encourage patients to help advocate on your behalf.

Patient Testimonials

Document patients’ stories and testimonials; record a simple interview on a mobile phone that you can easily post to your website or social media. Showcase their mobility and be sure to obtain permission before posting the testimonial.

Patient Reviews

Encourage patients to share their improvements on review platforms or social media. Remind them that by sharing their story, they are helping others who are in pain find relief like they did.

Recognize LSS in Others

Teach mild® patients how to recognize LSS in their friends and family. They likely know others suffering from their same condition and can educate people in their community about the procedure.

Contact Us

We’re here to help! Team Vertos is committed to ensuring your practice has a strong foundation of tools to educate your community about the mild® Procedure and how its benefits are transforming the lives of patients. Please reach out if you need further assistance in optimizing these resources.

To order patient education marketing materials (brochures, posters, etc.) or to schedule a staff training, please contact your local Vertos representative.

For additional marketing-related questions, please email us at mild@vertosmed.com.

Interventional Pain Management is a fast-growing specialty. As new lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) procedures become available, practices are evolving the way they collaborate and work together to optimize patient care. The mild® Procedure’s patient selection process is quite simple, but requires imaging review, which is often not a part of Advanced Practice Providers’ (APP) traditional education.

Although image review can be intimidating, APPs report that the learning curve is relatively short and there are resources available to help you get started. Below are some tips from mild® APPs on how they quickly established comfort with imaging review in their practice, allowing them to “look for the ligament,” identify hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (HLF), and educate mild® patients independently. You can access a CME webinar on the topic below as well.

Standardize MRI requests to request HLF be listed and measured: if it isn’t on the report, review and measure yourself.

Ashley Comer, NP
The Spine & Nerve Centers of the Virginias
Charleston, WV

Get comfortable with your imaging system and work alongside your physician to identify anatomical landmarks using the measuring tools.

Jane Hartigan, PA
Evolve Restorative Center
Santa Rosa, CA

Get comfortable with your imaging system and work alongside your physician to identify anatomical landmarks using the measuring tools.

Jane Hartigan, PA
Evolve Restorative Center
Santa Rosa, CA

Don’t rely on the MRI report alone: HLF is often overlooked, so be sure to look at the images yourself.

Kelsey Kimball, PA
The Orthopaedic Institute
Gainesville, FL

Practice reviewing imaging with patients. Usually, no one has explained their condition to them using imaging, so once you establish comfort with image review, incorporate this step into your patient education routine.

Christine Christensen, NP
Spine & Pain Institute of Florida
Lakeland, FL

Practice reviewing imaging with patients. Usually, no one has explained their condition to them using imaging, so once you establish comfort with image review, incorporate this step into your patient education routine.

Christine Christensen, NP
Spine & Pain Institute of Florida
Lakeland, FL

Use each image review as a training opportunity. Review the image yourself, then compare it with the report.

CME Webinar: Reviewing MRIs: A Collaborative Approach to Patient Selection

Webinar - ASPN CME Webinar Series: Reviewing MRIs: A Collaborative Approach to Patient Selection

In this American Society of Pain & Neuroscience (ASPN) webinar, moderators Timothy Deer, MD; Dawood Sayed, MD and faculty members Navdeep Jassal, MD; Eugene Paik, MD; Ashley Comer, NP-C; Christine Christensen, APRN; and Zohra Hussaini, MSN, FNP-BC, MBA, APRN discuss how physicians and APPs can match more patients with the right treatments sooner by working together.

Access the Webinar

Educational activity is jointly provided by Evolve Medical Education, LLC and Mantra Meetings, and is available for CME credit until its expiration date of June 23, 2022.

Looking for more info on mild® patient identification criteria? Check out our blog: Identifying & Educating mild® Patients – APP Guidance. Interested in APP-focused education and events? Sign up to stay informed and receive the latest updates!

Sign Up Now

We know that mild® is a great option for the lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients in your practice—but it’s also a great way to differentiate your offering and attract more referrals from the community.

As mild® has gained more and more momentum—demonstrating a safety profile equivalent to epidural steroid injections, positive patient outcomes, and 5-year durability of results—our practice has made mild® a cornerstone of our LSS treatment algorithm. It’s certainly rewarding to see patients regain mobility and get back on their feet. Importantly, when these cases become success stories, mild® patients, their family members, referring physicians, or physical therapists become powerful advocates in the community, driving referrals and offering compelling testimonials that build credibility, motivate new patients, and improve your community’s access to this meaningful treatment.

It’s important to recognize that today, many people in our communities still think about pain management in terms of medications and epidurals. As interventionalists, we have an opportunity to educate them on the wide range of services we provide and how we can not only help manage symptoms, but also restore function, improve overall health, and enhance overall quality of life. If the mild® Procedure has yet to become part of your management of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), my colleagues share in a recent blog post how to integrate the procedure into an LSS treatment algorithm. Here are a few steps you should consider taking to reach and attract more patients:

Help patients and referrers understand why you move to mild®

As clinicians, we are often tasked with making complex concepts accessible to our patients and other clinicians, many of whom only know LSS as “chronic low back pain” or who believe options are limited to serial epidural steroid injections or surgery.

To introduce mild®, we utilize the patient education tools to emphasize several key points:

  • Up to 85% of spinal canal narrowing is caused by thickened ligament
  • mild® addresses this major root cause of LSS by removing excess ligament tissue and leaves no implants behind
  • mild® restores space in the spinal canal, which reduces the compression of the nerves

If they ask why our practice moves to mild® early in the treatment algorithm, we can reference this recent clinical study, published in Pain Management, which found that:

  • There is no benefit to performing multiple epidural steroid injections before the mild® Procedure
  • Performing multiple epidural injections delays patients from receiving a longer-lasting, more effective mild® treatment
  • Performing the mild® Procedure immediately upon diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis with thickened ligament or after failure of the first epidural injection is an appropriate treatment approach

To help patients and caregivers access and engage with this information, I like to share a plain language summary document. It helps patients better understand how mild® can reduce the treatment burdens associated with frequent injections, provide lasting therapeutic results, and help our practice meet our primary goal of restoring function and achieving sustained improvement in quality of life.

The summary contextualizes key information from the study, including the findings, treatment details, study methods, and patient demographics—all using simple language and visual illustrations.

We also use the summary to educate and build relationships with referring clinicians, many of whom are unfamiliar with minimally invasive lumbar decompression, the procedure, and its impact on care protocols. The summary is written using simple language but is very detail-rich, making it a valuable resource for health stakeholders involved in collaborative care. When we send this to practices in our network, we like to strengthen the referring relationship by:

  • Including a personalized note briefly summarizing the mild® Procedure’s impact, how it empowers us to help patients restore function and reclaim lost quality of life, and how appreciative we are of the role they play as clinicians caring for patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis
  • Offering to schedule a Zoom call, coffee session, or dinner to help practitioners and staff better recognize the signs of lumbar spinal stenosis in their chronic low back pain patients
  • Offering to drop off patient brochures, postcards, or other educational assets that can help other specialists educate patients on their candidacy for the procedure, improve their readiness for treatment, and ensure an informed, patient-centered experience from start to finish

Add educational videos to your website

In addition to sharing the plain language summary, it can be helpful to leverage educational videos on your website to further inform patients about the benefits of mild® for lumbar spinal stenosis.

The patient video provides an excellent overview of both LSS and mild®.

To help patients find the information they’re looking for, create a video summary that describes the information the patient is about to see. The shorter and more concise the description, the better. You can include specific details on the benefits of mild® leading with the key points patients care most about:

  • Safety profile similar to an epidural steroid injection
  • Incision smaller than the size of a baby aspirin (5.1mm)
  • No implants left behind, only a small bandage over the puncture site
  • Patients typically resume normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions

Showcase patient success stories and positive clinical outcomes

Success stories from patients who have benefited from your spinal stenosis treatment offer a powerful and influential tool for creating patient awareness and should form a cornerstone of your outreach efforts. When a patient finally finds relief, they usually want to help other people who are suffering get back on their feet.

Document your lumbar spinal stenosis patients’ treatment journeys and capture testimonials so you can share them on your website and social media platforms. Teach them how to recognize the signs of LSS in their friends and family members and encourage them to share their story.

Additionally, when working with referring care providers, implement strong post-procedure communication strategies to cultivate active, engaged partnerships. Following a mild® Procedure, we inform referring providers of their patients’ results, and help them understand what the patient can expect over time.

Educate your Advanced Practice Providers (APPs)

When APPs understand that patient functionality continues to improve as time progresses, they can help manage patient expectations. APPs working within our referring clinicians’ offices also appreciate frequent status updates. This often translates into additional patient referrals and better care partnerships.

Ask your APPs to use the Move More Questionnaire to assess patient mobility before and after mild®.

The reward of serving the community

At the end of the day, our primary goal is to offer meaningful outcomes that restore function and reduce pain for patients in our community. To capture attention and positively impact more lives, it is fundamentally important that we make our communities aware of the full range of services we offer for lumbar spinal stenosis patients.

Taking this approach takes a little work but yields considerable reward. Successfully treating with mild®, using those successes to build lasting community relationships, and helping patients finally get on the path to relief, has brought our practice immense satisfaction, as well as steady increases in patients coming in to see what options we may have to treat their pain and increase their activity.

If your lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) treatment algorithm relies on serial epidural steroid injections (ESIs) to relieve chronic lower back and leg pain associated with neurogenic claudication, data supports a different approach—­performing the mild® Procedure immediately upon diagnosis of LSS or moving to mild® after the first ESI fails may help your patients avoid “ESI Exhaustion.”

We already know that epidurals are not capable of “curing” neurogenic claudication, a major root cause of lumbar spinal stenosis which is present in 94% of patients. The steroids in the injection are believed to reduce inflammation to relieve pain; however, injections are only treating the symptoms of LSS. For long lasting relief, debulking the ligament is required. Injections results typically last less than six months. To provide ongoing relief, patients often require 2-3 injections on average per year.

ESI results last less than 6 months. Patients require 2-3 epidural injections per year.
ESI results last less than 6 months. Patients require 2-3 epidural injections per year.

Due to the temporary nature of epidural steroid injection relief, and the requirement for repeat injections, many practices encounter patients with what is increasingly becoming known as “ESI Exhaustion.” ESI Exhaustion can be spotted in patients at any stage of LSS treatment or stenosis severity. Once you start recognizing the signs of ESI Exhaustion in your lumbar spinal stenosis patients, you’ll see why so many leading clinicians are moving to mild® earlier in their treatment algorithm.

ESI Exhaustion Sign #1: Feelings of Hopelessness

“I went through three rounds of injections. I had heard ‘we’ve had pretty good results with this.’ But when you go through so many, it’s like ‘okay, I’ve heard this one before.’” -Ronnie, mild® Patient

When patients experience short-term relief for a condition as challenging as LSS, it can be easy for them to become frustrated and lose hope. Patients can become tired from needing to return for repeat injections. Other patients may start to feel hopeless if the injection is not effective or if it is only effective for a very short time. It’s important to remember that LSS patients often experience debilitating pain and loss of mobility that can have a devastating impact on their quality of life.

To help your patients remain optimistic and aligned to your treatment plan, educate your new and existing LSS patients about your treatment options early. Make sure they know that there is a procedure that offers the safety equivalence of an ESI, but with lasting results. If you are starting their treatment plan with a single epidural, inform them about the mild® Procedure during that first visit, so they know that if the ESI is not effective, there are other options that can help restore mobility by addressing a major root cause of LSS.

ESI Exhaustion Sign #2: Decreasing Durability of Relief

“The first epidural lasted about three months and then the pain was back. I went for the second epidural, and it didn’t last two weeks. My physician said, ‘Well you can have one more’ I said, ‘No, I’m finished with them.’”
-Lynn, mild® Patient

Lynn - Mild patient

One of the more common questions patients have about a steroid injection is “how long will the results last?” Unfortunately, with ESIs, efficacy can vary by patient, and it can be difficult to predict the degree of relief or durability of effect for each. While studies have shown pain relief for up to six months in some lumbar spinal stenosis patients receiving steroid injections, other studies have demonstrated limited effectiveness.

Dante - Mild patient

“They gave me the first one and it worked for two weeks. I had to get a second shot, and within a week it had already worn off.” -Dante, mild® Patient

Even more vexing for some patients is that the durability of effect of an initial ESI may not be experienced with subsequent injections. To achieve effectiveness over two to three years, five or more injections per year may be required.

Rather than offering patients a series of injection after injection with short-term results, move to mild® after the first ESI fails. The mild® Procedure offers a clinically proven safety profile equivalent to ESIs, but with lasting results. A 5-year study completed by the Cleveland Clinic showed that mild® helped 88% of patients avoid back surgery for at least 5 years while providing lasting relief.

Image comparing the
Image comparing the

ESI Exhaustion Sign #3: Solution Shopping

“The orthopedic surgeon gave me two options, back surgery with metal plates or more shots. I wanted something simple that would make me better.” -Faye, mild® Patient

If patients are dissatisfied with their results and feel they’ve run out of options in your practice, they may start to search for another solution. By offering mild® as an early intervention, you can avoid losing patients and actually increase productivity in your practice. Upon diagnosis of LSS, inform patients that you offer mild®, a minimally invasive treatment option that offers durable relief.

If you have already treated a patient with an ESI and it failed, or the patient received an injection in another practice, there is no reason to continue to offer another injection. Most patients I’ve seen are excited to learn that there is another option. Moving to mild® gives them new hope in finding lasting relief.

How to Avoid ESI Exhaustion? Move to mild®.

While “ESI Exhaustion” is highly common among LSS patients, it is also completely avoidable. Recognizing that serial injections are often the standard of care when conservative care methods like exercise and physical therapy have failed to provide relief, we published a study in Pain Management that evaluated whether LSS patients benefit from multiple ESIs prior to mild®.

The article, ‘Minimally invasive direct decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis: impact of multiple prior epidural steroid injections’ compares outcomes between 145 patients receiving either 0/1 injections or 2+ injections at 6 centers in the United States. In reviewing results between the two groups, we concluded that there is no benefit to performing multiple epidural steroid injections before the mild® Procedure and that doing so delays the patient from receiving a longer-lasting, more effective mild® treatment.

Based on this study and other favorable data, we recommend performing the mild® Procedure for lumbar spinal stenosis patients immediately upon diagnosis of neurogenic claudication with hypertrophic ligamentum flavum, or after the first ESI fails.

Does your practice offer the mild® Procedure? Do you manage patient identification and education? Follow these 3 steps to optimize your practice routine:

1. Start with the Symptoms

ID Shopping Cart Syndrome

Shopping Cart Syndrome – lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) with neurogenic claudication (NC). These patients will often be the first ones to find chairs in your waiting room or use the walking aids, such as a shopping cart, to establish a flexed position. The flexed posture is a common sign of NC because it opens up the spinal canal to alleviate the pressure on the central canal to avoid pain that comes with being straight, upright, or mobile.

Silhouettes of four individuals: A man hunched over with lower back pain, a woman walking with pain in her upper legs, an elderly person holding a shopping cart to alleviate lower back pain, a person sitting to relieve back pain.

Ask patients

Ask patients the following questions to better understand how LSS with neurogenic claudication is limiting their mobility and when they experience symptom onset. Patients commonly report pain, so it is essential to talk about their functional limitations (eg, desire to walk the dog, get the mail, play with their grandchildren, etc.).

Consider incorporating these questions into your EMR or intake process so patients are routinely screened for neurogenic claudication.

Large question mark icon

  • How does your pain disrupt your life?
  • How long can you stand before you need to rest?
  • How far can you walk before you need to rest?

Ask patients

Ask patients the following questions to better understand how LSS with neurogenic claudication is limiting their mobility and when they experience symptom onset. Patients commonly report pain, so it is essential to talk about their functional limitations (eg, desire to walk the dog, get the mail, play with their grandchildren, etc.).

Consider incorporating these questions into your EMR or intake process so patients are routinely screened for neurogenic claudication.

Large question mark icon

  • How does your pain disrupt your life?
  • How long can you stand before you need to rest?
  • How far can you walk before you need to rest?

2. Confirm Candidacy:

Look for the ligament

Hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (HLF) contributes up to 85% of spinal canal narrowing

Hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (HLF) >= 2.5mm

What to look for?

  • LSS at levels L1-S1
  • Hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (HLF) – 2.5mm is the starting point

Need additional help establishing comfort with imaging review?

  • View the CME course on reading MRIs hosted by Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) Ashley Comer, NP-C; Christine Christensen, MSN, APRN; and Zohra Hussaini, MSN, FNP-BC, MBA, APRN
  • Contact your Vertos representative to set up an onsite or virtual educational session

If HLF is present, confirm candidacy…even in patients with comorbidities. mild® is an option for a broad spectrum of patients.

Candidates may have:

Medical comorbidities:

  • Osteoporosis
  • BMI >40

Spinal comorbidities:

  • Grade 1-2 spondylolisthesis
  • Foraminal narrowing
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Lateral recess narrowing

Confirm coverage

mild® is covered by Medicare (all ages, all plan types, including Medicare Advantage), the VA, U.S. Military, and IHS. Commercial coverage varies.

3. Educate Patients & Establish Appropriate Outcomes and Expectations

Educate early – move to mild® after the first ESI fails

Illustration of a syringe with text label: "Safety profile similar to an ESI." Second illustration shows the size of the incision with text label: "No implants left behind, only a Band-Aid."

Establish appropriate outcomes and expectations

mild® helps patients stand longer and walk farther with less pain.

Infographic titled "Increased Mobility Over Time."  The infographic shows a graph indicating how a person's standing time improves 7x over the 12 months following the mild® procedure.  The second graph shows that a person can walk 16x farther after 12 months following the mild® procedure.

Optimize outcomes with reconditioning

Illustration of a person walking. Caption says: "Patients typically resume normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions. Functionality improves over time."

  • At-home reconditioning walking program can be initiated immediately, as tolerated
  • Assess outcomes at 2-weeks and 4-6 weeks, then monthly. Assess mobility and Quality of Life (QOL) improvements, such as:
    • Transfer ability: Getting in and out of the bed/seat/car
    • Walking and standing times
    • Activities of daily living: Ability to get dressed, take off shoes, household chores, and grocery shopping

Optimize outcomes with reconditioning

Illustration of a person walking. Caption says: "Patients typically resume normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions. Functionality improves over time."

  • At-home reconditioning walking program can be initiated immediately, as tolerated
  • Assess outcomes at 2-weeks and 4-6 weeks, then monthly. Assess mobility and Quality of Life (QOL) improvements, such as:
    • Transfer ability: Getting in and out of the bed/seat/car
    • Walking and standing times
    • Activities of daily living: Ability to get dressed, take off shoes, household chores, and grocery shopping

Illustration of a shopping cart explaining how "Shopping Cart Syndrome" is a sign of a patient suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) with neurogenic claudication.

An image of a shopping cart that provides details about comorbidities and candidate eligibility for the mild® Procedure.

Illustration of a shopping cart explaining how "Shopping Cart Syndrome" is a sign of a patient suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) with neurogenic claudication.

An image of a shopping cart that provides details about comorbidities and candidate eligibility for the mild® Procedure.

If you would like a mild® Quick Reference Card for your office or to learn more about APP-specific educational opportunities, please contact us and let us know what you need.

What was the biggest news at the ASPN 2021 Conference? New mild® data! Five poster presentations highlight the reasons more practices are moving to mild® as a first-line therapy for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).

Must-see mild® outcomes include:

  1. Dr. Timothy Deer with Level 1 evidence on the superiority of mild® and conventional medical management (CMM) versus CMM-alone.

Image showing the MOTION randomized controlled study: One-year objective real-world outcomes for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis patients treated with the mild Procedure

Expand

  1. Dr. Peter Pryzbylkowski on performing mild® immediately upon diagnosis of central LSS with neurogenic claudication, or after the first ESI fails.

Infographic showing the impact of moving to mild directly or after initial epidural steroid injection (ESI) failure on clinic performance - A Six Center Retrospective Report

Expand

View Dr. Pryzbylkowski’s poster presentation here.

Looking to explore procedural techniques? The mild® Streamlined Technique gains backing from:

  1. Dr. Dawood Sayed and his co-authors’ multi-center findings on efficacy.

Infographic showing the safety and efficacy of the streamlined technique versus the standard technique for accessing decompression treatment zones for the PILD procedure

Expand

View Dr. Sayed’s poster presentation here.

  1. Dr. Navdeep Jassal with APP Christine Christensen’s safety data.

Infographic showing the single-center comparison of streamlined technique safety for mild procedure
Expand

View Dr. Jassal and Ms. Christensen’s poster presentation here.

  1. Dr. Jason Pope also demonstrates safety with the intraprocedural use of osteal landmarks instead of an epidurogram.

Infographic showing use of epidurogram is not necessary for safe, minimally invasive direct lumbar decompression

Expand

Physicians and practices treating lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients with epidural steroid injections (ESIs) will likely recognize a common “condition” among serial ESI patients that our practice typically refers to as “Epidural Exhaustion.” Epidural Exhaustion is typically seen in patients who have tried multiple injections but have experienced only short-term functional improvements with little to no pain relief. Many times, LSS patients who do not improve after a single ESI or series of ESIs can become frustrated, or begin to lose hope in ever feeling relief from their spinal stenosis symptoms.

While “Epidural Exhaustion” is remarkably common among lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients, it is avoidable. In our practice, we have found that moving to mild® (Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression) earlier in the patient journey helps drive positive long-term clinical outcomes and stronger patient satisfaction. Today, we have changed our practice workflows to move more patients to mild® after their first failed ESI. We proactively communicate the benefits of the mild® Procedure to our patients at the time of diagnosis or before they begin their treatment journey in our practice, so that they understand the breadth of their treatment options. With the availability of mild® as an early treatment option for more spinal stenosis patients, we can reduce incidences of ESI exhaustion and put more of our LSS patients on the path to long-term relief.

Challenging the status quo around serial ESIs

Although repetitive epidural steroid injections are still the standard of care in many practices and instilled during our training, the data show that serial ESIs offer little benefit to long-term patient outcomes.

As noted by Heidi Younan, Director of Patient Marketing & Practice Integration at Vertos Medical, we already know that epidurals are not capable of “curing” neurogenic claudication, which is present in 94% of patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. While repetitive ESIs deliver some chemical benefit and can offer transient, temporary relief for radicular components, ESIs do not address a major root cause of stenosis. Decompression is required to reduce narrowing/triangulation and relieve pressure in the central canal.

 

Friedly et al: “Repeated epidural injections offer no additional benefit”

 

A 2016 study conducted by Janna L. Friedly et al., studied the overall long-term effectiveness of treatment with epidural corticosteroid injections for lumbar central spinal stenosis and the effect of repeat injections on LSS patient outcomes through 12 months. The multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial with 400 patients concluded that repeated epidural injections offer no additional benefit if injections in the first 6 weeks did not improve pain. Therefore, performing multiple ESIs on patients who did not benefit from the initial injection is essentially delaying treatment that can provide beneficial and long-term outcomes.

Move to mild®: Clinical Benefits

Because of its effectiveness and safety profile, I strongly recommend moving to mild® earlier in the patient journey, after the first failed ESI. Recognizing that up to 85% of spinal canal narrowing is the result of hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (HLF), there is tremendous benefit in being able to debulk the HLF and restore space in the spinal canal, thus reducing compression of the nerves. The minimally invasive mild® Procedure enables our practice to offer a treatment option that is a step up from ESIs with the same low complication rate, but with excellent effectiveness and lasting results.

Ms. Younan also highlights that clinical studies of mild® have demonstrated clinically meaningful, statistically significant improvements in mobility, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and pain reduction on the numeric pain rating scale (NPRS). More recent 5-year data shows that after undergoing the mild® Procedure, only 12% of patients required surgical decompression at the same level over 5 years. Stated differently, mild® gives the potential to help 88% of patients avoid surgical decompression surgery for at least 5 years, while providing symptomatic relief during that time.

94% of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients have neurogenic claudication88% of mild procedure patients avoided surgical decompression for at least 5 years85% patient satisfaction from patients receiving the mild® procedure

Move to mild®: Practice Benefits

Beyond the individual clinical benefits, I also advise other pain specialists that there are many practice-driven reasons to offer mild® in lieu of serial epidural steroid injections. The MiDAS ENCORE level 1 data demonstrated an exceptionally high 85% patient satisfaction rate among patients who received the mild® Procedure. Patient satisfaction is a key benchmark in our practice. With the mild® Procedure, we have seen tremendous patient satisfaction, and we know that those patients tell their friends, relatives, and neighbors about their positive results, which increases word-of-mouth to our practice.

The right patient. The right treatment. The right time.

My goal as a physician is always to assess where the patient is in their treatment journey, the impact of lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms on their lifestyle, their priorities for the procedure (such as a minimally invasive approach or a short recovery time), and their treatment history to determine the best path forward for that individual.

This purpose of this article is certainly not to challenge any and all use of ESIs within the modern pain or spine practice. ESIs can be an effective tool and are a critical part of our practice armamentarium. For some patients, ESIs offer significant benefits; however, evidence and experience demonstrate that ESIs are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Many patients with LSS fail to achieve significant pain reduction, while others who do experience pain reduction or functional improvements find those benefits to have limited durability.

In our practice, we still commonly begin a lumbar spinal stenosis treatment plan with a conservative approach to determine if an ESI will effectively reduce the symptoms of LSS. Once we understand how our patient responds to an ESI, we can determine the best treatment plan for the patient. If they have a good result with an ESI, we suggest that they resume normal activities and self-monitor for changes over time. On the other hand, if they do not see significant benefit from the initial ESI, I will strongly consider them as a candidate for mild®, and barring any contraindications, we typically schedule their mild® Procedure within a few weeks.

Accelerating Our Assessment of Epidural Efficacy

A powerful message for patients looking for significant relief is that we will start their LSS treatment with an ESI, but we’ll also be able to know very quickly if the epidural steroid injection is going to be successful for them. When patients understand that they have other minimally invasive, nonsurgical options, they may be less concerned if they experience limited relief from their first ESI.

The key question is, “At what point can we reliably assess whether an individual patient will benefit from serial ESIs?” Here again, we can look to the Friedly data showing that repeated epidural injections offered no additional long-term benefit if injections in the first 6 weeks did not improve pain. Based on this data and the results we’ve seen first-hand in our own practice, we know that we can assess our LSS patient results post-ESI and determine whether we should move them to mild® earlier in their treatment journey.

Our Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Patient Workflow 

Image showing the treatment progression for patients suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis

(Graphic courtesy of Vertos Medical)

Starting with mild® in mind

One of the most significant ways our practice has shifted after the adoption of mild® is that we now evaluate most patients as potential mild® candidates. If we suspect LSS, we present mild® as a treatment option from the start. In making this shift, we have discovered a few clinical and workflow pearls that optimize success across the practice.

1. Train staff to recognize patient symptoms

Because LSS is especially common among adults over 60 years of age, and our practice treats a high volume of senior patients, we have found that many of our existing and new patients are excellent candidates for mild®.

Our practice trains our APPs and other support staff so they can immediately recognize the signs and symptoms of LSS independently. Of course, we ultimately diagnose LSS and neurogenic claudication with the support of imaging, but I always remind our staff and patients that imaging can’t show pain. As a healthcare team, we need to be proactively asking questions like, “Does hunching forward significantly relieve the pain you’re feeling?” or “Do you feel pain in your back and legs when standing or walking?” If the answer to either question is yes, we know there’s a good chance that patient may be candidate for mild®.

Younan also notes that the Vertos team has developed resources and training to support APPs. All resources are available through your Vertos sales representative.

2. Look for the ligament

When reviewing a patient’s MRIs/CTs, a simple rule we use is “look for the ligament.” Hypertrophic ligamentum flavum is a common problem that contributes up to 85% of spinal canal narrowing. We have trained our APPs to apply this rule while reviewing images to help identify patients who may benefit from the mild® Procedure.

Image showing thickened ligament, resulting in compression of the spinal cord nerves.

In the image, the thickened ligament can be seen clearly, resulting in compression of the spinal cord nerves.

3. Present mild® in your initial LSS treatment plan

When we work with patients, we make sure they know that our focus is on improving their functionality and reducing pain. We are clear from the start that we’re going to evaluate their symptoms, treatment history, and goals to determine their best treatment pathway based on the latest evidence and techniques.

Patients are generally open to the idea that a therapy that works for one patient might not work for them. So, I typically tell the patient, “We are going to start with a single epidural, and we’ll be able to know quickly if the epidural is going to be effective for you.” I also let them know that if they do not experience a significant improvement after the epidural, or if those results wear off after a short period, we can still help them with proven, minimally invasive options. Then, I tell them about the mild® Procedure, and how it offers a safety profile similar to an epidural, but with lasting results.

By presenting mild® as part of the treatment plan from the start, patients have more confidence that we are going to be proactive in their care and make sure they have the opportunity to access advanced LSS treatment options that offer excellent outcomes.

Overall, the addition of mild® has been a real game-changer in our practice. We see mild® as a safe and effective alternative to serial ESIs that drive long-term patient improvements and high patient satisfaction—a treatment we make available to as many patients as possible, as early as possible. I regularly tell other interventional pain specialists to incorporate mild® in their practice, and once they see the impact it has on their patients, they understand why we are so passionate about moving to mild® after failure of the first ESI.


About Dr. Jason Pope

Jason Pope, M.D. - Interventional Pain Physician trained in Pain Medicine at the Cleveland ClinicJason Pope, MD, is an Interventional Pain Physician trained in Pain Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic with board certifications in Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. He completed an Anesthesiology Residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and received his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Pope is the Founder and CEO of Evolve Restorative Center in Northern California and serves as an expert reviewer for the Medical Board of California. Dr. Pope also serves as President Emeritus and Chairman for the Pacific Spine & Pain Society (PSPS), President Elect for the American Society of Pain & Neuroscience (ASPN), Director at Large and Chairman for the International Neuromodulation Society (INS), and Chairman for the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS).

About Heidi Younan

Heidi Younan - Director of Patient Marketing & Practice Integration at Vertos MedicalHeidi Younan is the Director of Patient Marketing & Practice Integration at Vertos Medical. A critical member of the Vertos team for over a decade, Ms. Younan works with clinicians, APPs, and patients to support the successful integration of the mild® Procedure in pain practices and help more patients experience the life-changing benefits of mild®. Ms. Younan also contributed portions of the clinical content within this article.

© 2022 Vertos Medical, Inc. All Rights Reserved.