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Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty

- Summary
- About vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty
- Before the procedure
- During the procedure
- After the procedure
- Potential benefits and risks
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Steven A. King, M.D.


Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive forms of spine surgery used to treat pain resulting from compression fractures of the spine (vertebrae).

Fractures can be incomplete (only cracked or partially broken) or complete (in two pieces). Osteoporosis involves the bones becoming thin, brittle and more prone to fracture, causing pain.

Vertebral compression fractures are usually caused by osteoporosis. This disease causes 700,000 vertebral fractures each year in the United States, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Patients may experience limited mobility, a reduction in height, stooped posture, kyphosis (exaggerated forward curve in the upper back), reduced breathing capability and back pain.

Prior to performing a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, a physician must determine the cause of a patient’s back pain. This is because vertebroplasty MRI is an imaging test used in pain diagnosis, to guide treatment and to monitor for relapse.and kyphoplasty do not help other spinal conditions that can cause back pain, such as herniated discs  or severe arthritis. Certain imaging tests such as x-rays, MRIs or CAT scans are usually performed to confirm the presence of a vertebral compression fracture and to rule out the presence of other possible causes for the pain.

If such a fracture exists, conservative treatments (e.g., bed rest, analgesics, back bracing) may first be attempted. If these treatments are ineffective, or a patient’s pain is severe, a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty may be recommended.

During a vertebroplasty, a hollow needle is used to fill the damaged vertebrae with a cement-like material. The cement fills cavities and cracks in the bone, dries and fuses the crushed bone pieces into a single, solid structure. This stabilizes and strengthens the area, reducing or eliminating a patient’s pain and improving mobility.  

Kyphoplasty is similar to vertebroplasty, but before injecting the cement, an uninflated balloon-like device is inserted into the area. When the balloon is inflated, it restores height to the vertebrae. It is then deflated and removed, and the open space it leaves behind is filled with cement. This restores vertebral height, which can restore lost height or lessen spinal deformities a patient may have due to the compression fracture.

Vertebroplasty is often recommended for patients with vertebral compression fractures who are experiencing pain that is not responsive to conservative treatment methods (e.g., bed rest, back brace, analgesics, physical therapy). Kyphoplasty is usually reserved for patients who also have spinal deformities such as a significantly stooped posture or kyphosis.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are most often performed as outpatient procedures. The procedure can take a few hours, before a patient is allowed to leave the healthcare facility. Many patients experience immediate pain relief. Follow-up spinal x-rays are usually performed to check the status of the repaired and neighboring vertebrae.

Although generally considered safe, there are risks of complications from vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. These include cement leakage (which may increase a patient’s pain), an immune system reaction to the cement, and the formation of blood clots. Patients should consult their physician about the risks and benefits of the procedures to determine the most appropriate treatment for them.

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Review Date: 01-19-2007

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