Spinal Fracture | Causes and Treatments | MedStar Health

Your spine is composed of vertebrae, spongy bones that allow you to twist and bend. Because the vertebrae are less dense than other bones in the body, they are easier to fracture. Spinal fractures are often called ‘vertebral compression fractures’ because a broken vertebra often collapses and becomes compressed within the spinal cord.

What causes spinal fracture?

Osteoporosis, cancer, genetic factors, and certain lifestyle factors can damage and weaken the spinal bones, increasing the risk of fracture. When the vertebrae are weak, normal activities like bending and lifting can result in spinal fracture. Because spinal fractures often occur during non-strenuous activities, and pain can be mild, people can initially confuse fracture with muscle strains.

How is spinal fracture treated?

Vertebral fractures and cancer in the spine can cause significant back pain and limit movement. To relieve vertebral fracture pain and restore back function, our fellowship-trained interventional neuroradiologists and spinal surgeons perform two types of advanced minimally invasive spine fracture procedures, kyphoplasty, and vertebroplasty.


Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive stabilizing surgery, can help treat the pain associated with vertebral compression fractures and restore any spinal height that was lost due to the vertebra collapse. During kyphoplasty treatment, your surgeon places an image-guided needle through the skin into your fractured vertebra and introduces a balloon through the needle. When inflated, the balloon restores the compressed vertebra to its normal shape and normal height within the spinal cord. Once the vertebra is properly positioned, a special medical-grade bone cement is injected to strengthen the area and prevent future fractures.


Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure that involves the injection of a special medical-grade bone cement through a small incision in your skin. The cement hardens and provides pain relief and stabilization to fractured vertebrae.

The minimally invasive procedures performed at MedStar Health can increase your recovery time, reduce your risk of infection and blood loss, and help you return to your normal lifestyle faster and safer after spinal fracture. Our board-certified interventional neuroradiologists work hand-in-hand with the team of world-class neurologists and neurosurgeons on staff to ensure you receive the highest level of individualized care.

Our providers

Dr. Oliver Tannous, spine surgeon at MedStar Health, poses for a photo with a patient.

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