Are You a Candidate For Vertebroplasty or Kyphoplasty?

Man holding his back
In the absence of vertebroplasty and the similar procedure kyphoplasty, a common remedy to vertebral compression fractures (VCF) is fusion—typically with bone grafts or metal screws, wires and rods or plates.

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Big Words For Fast Back Surgery

Metal may still have its place, but it can sometimes be avoided with vertebroplasty. “What is vertebroplasty?” “Does the related procedure, kyphoplasty, cure back pain?” And, “Is either right for me?” you may wonder.

VCF is when a vertebra collapses into itself to form a wedge shape (narrower in the front). This may be caused by osteoporosis, metastatic tumor, multiple myeloma, vertebral hemangioma, lifting a heavy object, or even coughing and sneezing. A 15% loss of vertebral body height constitutes a vertebral compression fracture.

Doctors typically exclude vertebral hemangioma as the cause when a patient presents back pain. But, about 1 percent of vertebral heman­giomas cause pain. In exceptional cases, a hemangioma may be aggressive or fast-growing. In rare cases, vertebra expands, leading to spinal cord compression or vertebral fracture. Vertebroplasty might provide necessary support.

How Back Surgery is Performed

Who is a candidate for vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty?

First introduced in 1987 by Galibert et al, over the past three decades, vertebro­plasty and kypho­plasty have emerged as minimally invasive surgical options that play a central role in the treatment of VCF. Vertebroplasty involves the percuta­neous injection through a needle or trocar into the fractured vertebra to fill the compressed vertebra with bone cement (polymethylmethacrylate).

For kyphoplasty, a balloon is first inserted and inflated to expand the same vertebra to its normal height before filling the space with cement. The cement-strengthened vertebra allows the patient to stand straight, reduces pain, and prevents further fractures. With the medical procedure performed early in the day, a patent may be able to return home by the evening. Proper patient selection and good technique should minimize complications.

The PMMA bone cement is not comprised of silicone or latex, which triggers allergic reactions in some people. Rather, the bone cement is a self-curing material that might be known to you as acrylic, Acylite, Plexiglas, Lucite or Perspex. The bone cement viscosity changes over time from a runny liquid into a dough-like state that can be safely applied and then finally hardens. Alternatives to PMMA with similar biomechanical properties for strength and stiffness include calcium sulfate cement and calcium phosphate cement.

Can Vertebroplasty Correct Dowager’s Hump?

Are You a Candidate For Vertebroplasty or Kyphoplasty?

Dowager’s hump, also called “humpback” is often caused by weakened bone (osteoporosis). This exacerbates VCF. Restoring vertebral shape relieves stress on neighboring vertebrae and reduces the abnormal curvature of the spine.

What Are The Risks?

Vertebroplasty is generally well tolerated, with complica­tions usually minor and occurring at a rate of 1 percent to 3 percent. But patients can face risks such as:

  • Hemorrhaging
  • Blood loss
  • Fractures of ribs or other nearby bones
  • Fever
  • Nerve root irritation
  • Infection
  • Cement flowing outside of the bone before it hardens

Vertebroplasty is not for everyone. For example, it does not cure vertebral misalign­ment, herniation, osteoporosis (leading cause of VCF), or cancers that might trigger vertebral compression fractures. A single vertebral fracture significantly increases risk of further fractures. Unresolved infection and the length of time since bone deforma­tion may determine if it is advisable to inflate vertebrae. In the rare event bone cement needs to be later removed, the affected vertebrae will become even weaker than prior to initial operation.

Speak to a qualified orthopedic specialist and review all available options to get A Bit More Healthy. See the anatomy poster on Low Back Pain in the online store.

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