Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty Procedure | MedStar Health

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to treat vertebral compression fractures (VCF) in the spine that often result from osteoporosis or spine trauma. To eliminate debilitating pain caused by compressed vertebrae, kyphoplasty uses a cement mixture to reinforce fractured vertebrae, strengthening the spine for immediate pain relief and prevention of future fractures.

Why kyphoplasty is performed

If you have severe pain in the spine as a result of fractured vertebrae, you may need kyphoplasty to minimize your discomfort without the use of pain medication or braces. Kyphoplasty is often performed on patients who:

  • Suffer from osteoporosis

  • Are elderly and experience a fall or other trauma

  • Have a malignant tumor that causes vertebral compression

What to expect during kyphoplasty

Kyphoplasty typically takes one hour per vertebrae. Most often, this procedure is performed using an intravenous (IV) sedative and a local anesthetic, meaning that you will not be fully asleep but will feel very relaxed and experience no pain. On some occasions, your interventional radiologist may use general anesthesia to keep you comfortable and safe during the procedure.

Next, your interventional radiologist will make a pinhole-sized incision near the spinal fracture. The needle will then be guided through to the fractured vertebrae using advanced imaging, such as fluoroscopy, to ensure precision. Once in place, your interventional radiologist may use a dose of dye to confirm the correct needle placement.

A small balloon is used to inflate the fractured vertebrae, creating a hollow space that restores the vertebrae to its normal height and shape. The cavity is then filled with a cement mixture that can quickly stabilize and strengthen the vertebrae.

After the procedure is complete, the needle is removed and the small incision site is bandaged. Kyphoplasty is an outpatient procedure that is usually finished within a few hours. Many patients go home later the same day of the procedure.

Risk and benefits of kyphoplasty

Kyphoplasty is a safe procedure with many benefits. Most importantly, the treatment approach has high success in relieving debilitating pain caused by fractured vertebrae. As a result, most patients are able to return to their previous level of physical activity without the use of pain medication or rehabilitation. In addition, kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure requiring only a small nick, so recovery is safer and faster than traditional surgery.

Like all medical procedures, kyphoplasty does carry some small risks, including bleeding, infection, and numbness. On rare occasions, a small amount of the cement mixture may leak out of the vertebrae, but this does not usually present a serious problem. The use of imaging guidance helps your care team to reduce these risks as much as possible.

How to prepare for kyphoplasty

Before your kyphoplasty procedure, your interventional radiologist will evaluate your spine using an MRI, bone scan, or computed tomography (CT) scan to see the location and severity of your fracture. Be sure to provide a list of your current medications as some may need to be stopped prior to the scheduled procedure, including blood thinners.

Your care team will communicate any restrictions on eating and drinking prior to your appointment time. Because you will receive sedation during kyphoplasty, be sure to arrange for a ride home.

Post kyphoplasty

After your kyphoplasty procedure, you may feel immediate pain relief although the incision site may be sore for a few days. If your procedure was completed as an outpatient procedure, you may be allowed to go home the same day. However, if you were admitted to the hospital for a trauma or other serious event, you may spend the night in the hospital as you recover.

Many patients are able to resume normal activities within a few days and your care team will contact you regularly to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

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