Patients' Guide To
Spinal Fractures & Kyphoplasty

Balloon Kyphoplasty: Frequently Asked Questions

How is balloon kyphoplasty different from vertebroplasty?
Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are actually quite similar. Both minimally invasive procedures use orthopaedic bone cement to stabilize spinal fractures. They also each use thin tubes (called cannulas) that are inserted into each vertebra through 3mm incisions to inject the cement.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty also share the same primary goals—to stabilize the spinal compression fracture and reduce back pain.

The main difference is that kyphoplasty has a small balloon inserted into the fracture.  The balloon is inflated to create a space that the surgeon later fills with bone cement. This extra feature allows kyphoplasty to help restore vertebral height, and thus, help reduce spinal deformity.  It also allows a thicker cement to be used which has less risk of leaking out and causing complications.

How long does balloon kyphoplasty take?
Balloon kyphoplasty usually takes about a half hour per level. Hospital stays are short—most patients are discharged within 24 hours of their surgery.

What kind of anesthesia is used?
Kyphoplasty can be performed using local (when part of your body numbed, but you are still fully conscious) or general anesthesia (when you are completely unconscious), depending on your overall condition.

What are the benefits of kyphoplasty?
The primary goals of kyphoplasty are to stabilize the fracture and reduce back pain. But compared to other fracture treatments, kyphoplasty is distinctive in that it also restores vertebral height. This reduces the kyphosis that many people with spinal fractures have and may reduce the disc of neighboring fractures by restoring proper alignment.

Other benefits of the procedure include:

  • Improvement in mobility
  • Reduction in the number of days the patient stays in bed
  • A low complication rate
  • Improvement in quality of life

What are the special considerations and risks of kyphoplasty?
Spinal compression fractures can compromise the spinal canal.  This means they may cause or be at risk for causing spinal cord injury (numbness, weakness, or bowel/bladder dysfunction).  These fractures often require open surgical decompression and are not a candidate for minimally invasive vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty alone.

Although balloon kyphoplasty has a low complication rate, it isn’t a risk-free procedure. As with any surgery, complications can occur.

Below are the serious—but rare—risks associated with kyphoplasty:

  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Cement leakage (this can cause a pulmonary embolism when the cement spreads to the lungs; the cement can also leak into the muscle and tissue around the spinal cord) and even lead to spinal cord injury

If you are a candidate for balloon kyphoplasty, don’t hesitate to voice your concerns about these possible complications to your doctor. He or she will help you weigh the risk risks and benefits of the procedure to determine the best way to treat your spinal compression fractures.

Updated on: 05/06/14
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How Balloon Kyphoplasty Works

Balloon kyphoplasty is a treatment for spinal compression fractures. Kyphoplasty is similar to vertebroplasty; the main difference is that kyphoplasty uses a balloon. Article is a step-by-step look at how kyphoplasty is performed.
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