Those who have suffered stress fractures in the spine due to osteoporosis, cancer or a devastating injury may be offered a procedure known as a kyphoplasty. This procedure helps fill in gaps in the spine, which can restore the natural height of the vertebrae and help eliminate nagging back pain. Understanding the procedure, risks and benefits can help patients make the best decisions concerning their care.

Who May Need a Kyphoplasty?

There is a wide range of patients who may benefit from having this procedure. Osteoporosis, otherwise known as thin and brittle bone disease, can cause the vertebrae of the spine to form compression fractures. Trauma such as a car accident or sports injuries can also cause this. Some forms of cancer can also make bones very weak and far more likely to fracture. No matter why a patient has this problem, a kyphoplasty may be recommended for anyone experiencing a collapse in the spine that is causing pain.

How Does It Work?

The spine is much like a stack of bricks, one placed on top of the next. If one brick crumbles, those above and below that point may start to lean or suffer their own damage from the added stress. By undergoing a kyphoplasty, the affected vertebrae can be repaired. This allows the ‘brick’ to be fixed and serve as a strong support to the vertebrae above and below it once again.

What is the Procedure?

This procedure is performed in a hospital or a surgical clinic. Anesthesia can be local or general, meaning that the patient may or may not be conscious during the procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision and inserts a balloon into the collapsing space in the spine. The space is then filled in with surgical cement and the balloon deflated and removed. The cement hardens, and the space in the spine is now supported.

What is the Risks Involved?

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved. There is always a possibility that a patient may have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia or other medications used during and after the procedure. Nerves may also be irritated, causing more pain and discomfort. It is also possible that the surgical cement will leak out of the area and not support the spine as intended. However, going to a skilled and experienced orthopedic surgeon can lessen these risks.

For patients who are suffering from a debilitating collapse in the spinal space, a kyphoplasty can help immensely. Most surgeons will try nonsurgical methods first, such as physical therapy or bed rest. For those who are good candidates, a kyphoplasty can get them back on the road to a pain-free life in only a few weeks of recovery time.