FAQs on Vertebroplasty

Vertebroplasty is a surgical procedure used to treat vertebral compression fractures (VCFs), which are breaks of the spinal bones. The most common cause of VCF is osteoporosis, but other bone diseases can cause it. In addition, bone cancer or metastatic cancer to the bone are causes of VCF.

How common are vertebral compression fractures and osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weakened and brittle. This condition affects 28 million Americans. When a vertebra weakens, it will collapse, which causes the spine to develop kyphosis (humpback). VCF affects approximately 25% of all postmenopausal women in the United States, and the prevalence rate increases with age. Around 40% of all women who are 80 years of age or older have at least one VCF.

What are the benefits of vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty is used to strengthen and stabilize a collapsed vertebra, and this procedure is done soon after the VCF occurs. This procedure is used to relieve pain, prevent kyphosis, and improve spine mobility.

How is VCF diagnosed?

If the doctor suspects VCF, he will conduct a physical examination and ask you questions about your current medical status. Diagnostic imaging tests are used to confirm a fracture, and include x-rays, bone scans, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests.

How can I prepare for vertebroplasty?

Before the procedure, make sure the doctor is aware of all your medical conditions, as well as what medicines you are taking. Certain blood-thinning agents must be held for several days before the procedure. In addition, anesthesia is used, so you cannot eat or drink for six hours before the vertebroplasty. If you are not going to be staying overnight at the surgical center, arrange to have someone drive you home. When you arrive at the medical facility, you will sign a consent form after a nurse goes over the pros and cons of the vertebroplasty. After you change into a gown, the nurse places an intravenous line in your hand.

What can I expect during the vertebroplasty procedure?

The anesthesiologist will administer medicine to help you go to sleep. Once asleep, a tube will be inserted to help with breathing. The doctor makes a tiny incision on the back over the VCF. A small needle is inserted into the collapsed vertebra, and orthopedic cement is injected into the vertebra. This stabilizes the bone and restores height. After removing the procedure needle, the incision is closed with sutures, and a dry bandage is applied.

What can I expect after the vertebroplasty?

After the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery area where you are monitored for around 20-30 minutes. Pain medications and antibiotics are given through the IV, your vital signs are monitored until stable. After this, you are moved to a hospital room for overnight observation and care, or they are discharged home with instructions. Expect some tenderness at the incision site, which resides after 1-2 days.

Does vertebroplasty work?

Vertebroplasty is a ground-breaking procedure proven to increase vertebral body height, reduce pain, and decrease wedge angle. The success rate for the vertebroplasty is around 90%, according to clinical studies. Vertebroplasty was found to help improve quality of life in 95% of people in a 2007 study. In addition, vertebroplasty has few risks, but they can occur. These include bleeding, infection, allergic reaction to medications, and nerve damage. In addition, there is a slight chance of recurrent fracture following the procedure. Vertebroplasty was found to help improve quality of life in 95% of people in a 2007 study.

Resources

Belkoff SM, Maroney M, Fenton DC, & Mathis JM (1999). An in vitro biomechanical evaluation of bone cements used in percutaneous vertebroplasty. Bone, 29.

Old, J.L, & Calvert, M. (2004). Vertebral compression fractures in the elderly. American Family Physician, 69(1), 111-116.

Wardlaw D, Cummings SR, Van Meirhaeghe J, et al. (2009). Efficacy and safety of balloon kyphoplasty compared with non-surgical care for vertebral compression fracture (FREE): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet, 373(9668):1016-24.