Facts about Balloon Kyphoplasty
If you have a spinal compression fracture that would best be treated with surgery, your doctor may recommend either vertebroplasty or balloon kyphoplasty. Both minimally invasive procedures use orthopaedic bone cement to stabilize spinal fractures. Vertebroplasty was the first to be developed of these two procedures. This article will focus on kyphoplasty.
During balloon kyphoplasty, a thin tube (called a cannula) is inserted into the fractured bone. Attached to the tube is a small balloon that moves the pieces of broken bone and creates a space when it’s inflated. The surgeon then fills this space with orthopaedic bone cement.
Benefits of Balloon Kyphoplasty
Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty treat spinal compression fractures by stabilizing the fracture and reducing back pain. But kyphoplasty has the additional benefit of restoring vertebral height. This reduces the kyphosis that many people with spinal fractures have.
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
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
- 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
In most cases, balloon kyphoplasty takes about a half hour per level, and most patients are released from the hospital within a day of their surgery. Kyphoplasty can be performed using local or general anesthesia, depending on the patient’s overall condition.