Spinal Fracture Repair
Vertebra can fracture from trauma or tumor. For patients with weak bone from osteoporosis or from steroids, the trauma causing the fracture can be a minor as coughing or reaching up to get a can of soup. Because these fractures are painful and the structural integrity of the bone is at risk, surgery is often considered. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are two procedures that can help heal such fractures.
Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure; just a small nick is made. A needle carrying injectable cement is guided by X-ray and inserted into the fractured vertebra. The cement fills in the microfractures within the vertebral body and stabilizes the bone. It takes about 10 minutes for the cement to set.
This newer procedure is similar to vertebroplasty, but with a valuable advancement: restoring some bone height. Keep in mind that fractured vertebrae often collapse. This can create a domino effect and cause other vertebrae to misalign. With kyphoplasty, a temporary balloon is blown up inside the vertebrae to create space and restore some height. The balloon is removed, the open space is filled with cement, and the natural size of the vertebra is restored.
Jason Highsmith, MD is a practicing neurosurgeon in Charleston, NC and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Back Pain. Click here for more information about the book.