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Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor

Definition

The vertebrae are a series of bones that make up the spine. When one fractures, it can put pressure on surrounding nerves. This can cause intense pain and disability. The bones may be repaired with these procedures.

  • In vertebroplasty, an acrylic cement is injected into a fractured and collapsed vertebra (spinal bone). The cement strengthens the bone and decreases pain from the fracture.
  • In kyphoplasty, a balloon is used to create a cavity to inject the cement into. This procedure is designed to relieve pain. It can also improve spinal deformities from the fractures.

Reasons for Procedure

Both procedures are used to decrease pain from osteoporotic or pathologic vertebral compression fractures.

Kyphoplasty also restores the height of the bone. This can decrease the spinal deformity caused by the fracture.

Other treatment for vertebral fracture may include nonsurgical treatments, such as bed rest, bracing, and pain medicines.

Vertebral Fracture

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Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, your doctor will review a list of possible complications which may include:

  • Leakage of the cement into the spinal canal or into adjacent veins
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Increased back pain
  • Fracture of adjacent vertebra or ribs
  • Numbness, tingling
  • Paralysis

Your doctor may feel that the risks of these procedures are too great if you have:

  • Vertebral fractures that extend into the spinal canal area
  • Radiculopathy—irritation of a nerve root in the area of the fracture that often causes areas of numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg
  • Current infection
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Unusually soft or porous bones

If you have vertebral fracture due to osteoporosis, vertebroplasty may not be as effective.

In addition, smoking can increase the risk of complications.

What to Expect

  • You will receive a complete physical exam and blood tests.
  • You will have imaging studies of your back to identify the nature of the fracture, such as:
  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners, such as clopidogrel or warfarin
  • You will need to stop eating at least six hours prior to the procedure. Stop drinking fluids about 3-6 hours prior to the procedure.
  • Most are done using only IV sedation and local anesthesia. The sedation will help you relax. The local will numb the area above the fractured bone.
  • In some cases, general anesthesia may be used. You will be asleep.

You will be asked to lie down on your stomach. X-ray cameras will be positioned around you. The cameras will show images of the bone. Your doctor will use this to verify the position of the needles and cement.

The skin over the fractured bone will be numbed and sterilized. A hollow needle will be passed into the vertebra. The acrylic cement will be mixed into a toothpaste-like consistency. An added substance, called barium, will improve the images. When the needle position is ideal, the cement will be injected into the fractured bone. The doctor will watch the cement as it enters the bone to check for leaks.

Your doctor will begin by making a small incision in your back. A tiny drill will be used to create an opening in the bone. A special balloon will be passed through. The balloon will be inflated to open the space and correct the deformity. After the balloon is removed, acrylic cement will be injected into the cavity. This will help to maintain the correction.

You may have a CT scan to confirm the position of the cement. You will stay on your stomach for about 10-20 minutes. This will allow the cement to harden. You will then be moved to a recovery room. You will be asked to lie on your back for another hour or so.

40 minutes to 2 hours

You may feel some initial pain due to lying on your stomach. Many notice immediate and significant relief from pain.

You will usually only need to stay in the hospital for a few hours. You may need to stay longer if you have any complications.

You will be monitored for a few hours for any complications.

You may notice some discomfort at the site of the needle insertion or the tiny incision. This is often relieved through the use of an ice pack (use only for 15 minutes per hour).

Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may also help. You may also be given medicine to prevent muscle spasm.

You will be asked to stay in bed for about 24 hours after the procedure. After 24 hours, you can gradually increase your activities up to your usual level. Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.

Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions .

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site or the needle insertion site
  • Severe back or rib pain
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • New numbness, tingling, or weakness

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American College of Radiology

http://www.acr.org

American Society of Neuroradiology

http://www.asnr.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Radiological Society of North America

http://www.rsna.org

References:

Kyphoplasty. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/vertebroplasty/kyphoplasty.html. Accessed July 1, 2007.

Predey TA, Sewall LE, Smith SJ. Percutaneous vertebroplasty: New treatment for vertebral compression fractures. American Family Physician. 2002; 66: 611-615.

Vertebroplasty. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/vertebroplasty/vertebroplasty.html. Accessed July 1, 2007.

Vertebroplasty. RadiologyInfo website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=vertebro. Accessed July 1, 2007.

Vertebroplasty for spine fracture pain. Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/drugs-procedures-devices/procedures-devices/vertebroplasty-for-spine-fracture-pain.html. Accessed July 1, 2007.

11/9/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamicmedical.com/what.php: Buchbinder R, Osborne RH, et al. A randomized trial of vertebroplasty for painful osteoporotic vertebral fractures. N Engl J Med. 2009;361(6):557-568.

6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.

Last reviewed December 2012 by John C. Keel, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.