Kyphoplasty May Be Your First Resort for Vertebral Fractures
The pain and disfigurement caused by spinal fractures does not necessarily have to be accepted as permanent. A minimally invasive procedure known as kyphoplasty is consistently successful in repairing a fractured vertebrae.
The kyphoplasty procedure has been used to treat compression fractures in the United States since 1998. We have learned through experience that, for most vertebral fractures, it may be chosen as the very first resort. Furthermore, the sooner these patients are treated, the better their outcomes will be. The procedure is used to repair fractures cause by osteoporosis, injury or diseases such as cancer.
Typical treatments for spinal fractures include extended bed rest, limited activity, pain medication and back braces. Invasive surgery is an option when there is risk to nerves in the spinal cord. Fractures of the vertebrae can result in chronic pain, nerve damage or a hunched-over posture. Kyphoplasty stops pain by stabilizing the bone, and it restores some or all of the lost vertebral body height caused by the compression. Without kyphoplasty, many patients are left with permanently hunched posture and are unable to move, bend or sit as easily as they once did.
Kyphoplasty is performed under sedation. During the procedure, a needle is inserted into the spinal bone and a balloon is put through the needle. When inflated, the balloon opens to restore the height of the disk, creating a cavity within the bone. We fill this cavity with special bone cement during an accompanying procedure known as vertebroplasty. The cement creates an internal cast that holds the vertebra in place.
The kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty procedure takes about an hour for each fracture. It is usually performed on an outpatient basis. Many patients experience almost immediate relief following the procedure, while others report pain is either gone or dramatically reduced within days. Most are able to return to regular activity within a matter of weeks.
Patients with osteoporosis may be instructed by their physician to take specific vitamins, minerals or medications to help strengthen their bones and prevent future spine fractures. The kyphoplasty procedure offers many spinal fracture patients hope for life without pain. So don't suffer needlessly. If you think you may be a candidate for kyphoplasty, talk to your doctor to find out if kyphoplasty is right for you.
By Saud Ahmed, MD
Independent interventional radiologist who chooses to practice at Franciscan Health