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Vertebroplasty v. Kyphoplasty

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are two procedures that share a similar objective and even a fairly similar methodology at first glance. The aim of both procedures is to stabilize fractures in the spine and provide pain relief.

What do these procedures treat?

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty treat vertebral compression fractures: tiny breaks that compromise the stability of the vertebral column. If left untreated, these fractures could lead to the complete compression or collapse of the affected vertebra.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty is most commonly performed on patients with osteoporosis, a degenerative disease of the bone. Patients with spinal tumors (which can cause vertebral compression) may also be candidates for these procedures.

What is vertebroplasty?

In this procedure, bone cement is injected directly into the compressed vertebra in an attempt to stabilize the spine. The surgeon does not “inflate” the vertebra – as with kyphoplasty – but works with the compressed vertebra.

What is kyphoplasty?

During kyphoplasty, a small balloon is introduced to the compressed vertebral space via catheter. The balloon is inflated until the original space of the vertebra is restored. Next, the surgeon injects bone cement into the cavity to stabilize the spine.

How are these procedures performed?

Both of these minimally invasive procedures are performed in the outpatient setting, under general or local anesthesia, depending on the patient. During the procedure, the patient lies on his or her stomach. Using real-time x-ray imaging for enhanced visualization, the surgeon places a hollow needle in the compressed vertebra. If the procedure is a vertebroplasty, then cement is injected to fill the cavity. If the procedure is a kyphoplasty, the balloon inflates the space, and then the cement is injected 

How effective are these procedures for back pain relief?

Success rates for these procedures are very high. Many patients report pain relief within several days of the procedure. Newfound back pain relief allows patients to return to their normal activities. 

What risks are associated with vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty?

In addition to the general risks that any surgical procedure poses, there is one major risk that you should discuss with your surgeon: bone cement leakage. In some cases, bone cement has been known to leak out of the vertebral space before it hardens (a process that takes about 10 minutes). When bone cement leaks, it could impinge upon the spinal cord or nerves, which can cause post-surgical pain and complications. In extremely rare cases, the bone cement may even enter a vein, resulting in pulmonary embolism and death. Though this is very rare, it’s important to discuss these risk factors with your physician.

Is vertebroplasty/kyphoplasty right for my back pain?

In order to be considered a candidate for one of these procedures, your back pain must be directly related to a vertebral fracture – not other common back pain issues, such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis, or osteoarthritis. If you experience a fracture (which can often happen silently without any serious pain), then you should see your physician immediately. Kyphoplasty is much more effective when performed within several weeks of the fracture.

For more information about vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty, and other back pain treatment options, contact Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute today. Schedule an appointment to have your back pain evaluated by a pain management specialist. Specialists are available in Mesa, AZ.


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