This is an abbreviated version of the complete article.*
Vertebroplasty is a nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedure that is used to treat one or more broken spinal bones (vertebrae).
In vertebroplasty, medical-grade cement is injected into the injured vertebral bone to stabilize it.
The procedure is best used in patients who are elderly, frail, or have weak bones and who have already tried simpler treatments without success.
Studies show that 75 to 90 percent of patients who undergo vertebroplasty will have complete or significant pain reduction.
Vertebroplasty is a nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedure that is used to treat one or more broken spinal bones (vertebrae). In this treatment, a special type of cement is injected into a broken bone to stabilize it.
Vertebroplasty is an alternative to spinal surgery, which can be too difficult and risky a treatment to be used other than as a last resort. Vertebroplasty is usually performed on patients who are too frail to undergo spinal surgery or those whose bones are too weak. The procedure is sometimes also used to treat people with vertebral damage due to a spinal tumor. Vertebroplasty is used after simpler treatments have failed.
The procedure cannot treat chronic back pain or herniated disks and is less effective at treating fractures older than 1 year. Patients with spinal tumors may be at higher risk for developing complications of vertebroplasty.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Prior to the procedure, intravenous antibiotics and a sedative are given to the patient, who lies facedown so that the physician can access his or her back. The skin and muscles near the spinal fracture(s) are numbed with a local anesthetic. The physician then makes a small incision in the back and inserts a hollow needle, guiding it with fluoroscopy (continuous x ray imaging) to the fractured vertebra. Once the tip of the needle is positioned within the affected vertebra, the physician injects medical-grade, orthopedic (bone) cement into the vertebra. The cement hardens within 10 to 20 minutes and stabilizes the fracture. The entire vertebroplasty typically takes about 1 to 2 hours for each collapsed vertebra.
The patient will be instructed to lie flat on his or her stomach for 1 to 2 hours to ensure that the cement has hardened. Most patients are able to stand and walk with little or no pain and can then return home. Bed rest is recommended for the first 24 hours.
Patients may feel sore at the incision point for the next few days and can use ice (or over-the-counter pain relievers with the physician's approval) to ease the discomfort. Patients should increase activities gradually and resume taking medications as advised. Back pain should resolve or feel significantly better within 48 hours of the procedure.
In some cases a very small amount of cement may leak out of the vertebra. Other complications of vertebroplasty can include:
Increased back pain;
Another fracture of the spine or ribs; and
Medical Review Date: June 28, 2007
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