Patients' Guide To
Spinal Fractures & Kyphoplasty

Balloon Kyphoplasty: Frequently Asked Questions

Six frequently asked questions about balloon kyphoplasty treatment of vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) answered.

Are balloon kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty the same?

Balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to treat one or more vertebral compression fractures (VCFs). It is sometimes compared to another vertebral augmentation procedure called vertebroplasty, which may also be performed using minimally invasive techniques. While both kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty treat VCFs and work to stabilize the spinal fracture, kyphoplasty is a newer technology and offers benefits that vertebroplasty doesn’t. So, these procedures are not precisely the same.
Female patient in hospital bed, speaking with her Doctor.Your Doctor will help you weigh your individual risks and benefits to determine the best treatment options for your vertebral compression fracture(s). Photo Source:

How are kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty similar and yet, different?

Both kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are percutaneous vertebral augmentation procedures performed using minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques. This means the surgery is performed through very tiny skin incisions (percutaneous) to reach the fractured vertebral body (vertebral) to stabilize it by injecting bone cement into the fracture (augmentation). The goal of both procedures is to stabilize the spinal fracture and reduce back pain.

The primary difference is kyphoplasty utilizes a unique balloon technology to help restore lost height of the vertebral body following its fractured collapse (compression). Quite simply, small surgical instruments are guided using intraoperative x-ray (fluoroscopy) to the fractured vertebrae, and balloon is carefully inserted and inflated. As the balloon is inflated, the height and shape of the vertebral body is restored, and an empty cavity is created into which the bone cement is injected after the balloon is removed.

Some people may experience multiple VCFs. The spinal fractures cause the affected vertebral bodies to become misshaped (eg, wedge shaped) leading to changes in posture. In some patients, multiple vertebral compression fractures  cause a deformity sometimes described as a hunched back or forward posture. This is a type of abnormal kyphosis.

How long does it take to perform balloon kyphoplasty?

Balloon kyphoplasty usually takes about a half hour per spinal level treated. Plus, because the procedure is minimally invasive, some patients may undergo kyphoplasty in an outpatient or ambulatory spine center. If performed in a hospital setting, most patients are discharged home within 24 hours of their surgery.

What kind of anesthesia is used during the procedure?

Kyphoplasty may be performed using local anesthesia (when part of your body numbed, but you are still fully conscious) or general anesthesia (when you are completely unconscious). The type of anesthesia used depends on many factors, including your general health, age, fracture severity, and possibly the cause of the fracture (eg, cancer).

What are the potential benefits of kyphoplasty?

The primary goals of kyphoplasty are to stabilize the fracture and reduce back pain. But compared to other spinal fracture treatments, kyphoplasty is distinctive in that it also helps to restore vertebral body height. This reduces the incidence for development of kyphosis that is associated with VCFs in some patients.

Other benefits of balloon kyphoplasty include:

  • Improvement in mobility
  • Fewer days required to stay in bed because of back pain
  • A low complication rate
  • Improvement in quality of life

Are there special considerations and risks related to kyphoplasty?

Vertebral compression fractures may compromise the spinal canal, which means the VCF may cause myelopathy or spinal cord injury. Symptoms may include include numbness, weakness, bowel and/or bladder problems, and in rare cases, paralysis. When a VCF compromises the spinal canal, a different type of spine surgery may become necessary—decompression. Decompression may be performed minimally invasively or as an open surgery (eg, long incision) and involves decompressing or removing whatever (eg, bone) is pressing on the spinal cord or nerve roots. People that have a spinal fracture causing nerve-related symptoms may not be candidates for minimally invasive kyphoplasty alone.

Although balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgery, as with any surgical or medical procedure, complications can occur.

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

  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Cement leakage (which may lead to a pulmonary embolism when the cement spreads to the lungs or even spinal cord injury)

Talk With Your Doctor About Your Concerns

If you are a candidate for balloon kyphoplasty, don’t hesitate to voice your concerns about these possible complications to your spine specialist. He or she will help you weigh your individual risk risks and benefits to determine the best treatment options for your vertebral compression fracture(s).


Updated on: 05/15/19
Continue Reading
How Balloon Kyphoplasty Works
Continue Reading:

How Balloon Kyphoplasty Works

Balloon kyphoplasty is a treatment for spinal compression fractures. Article is a step-by-step look at how kyphoplasty is performed.
Read More