Kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty is a surgery that’s used to treat a fracture of the spine. The fracture is often a complication of osteoporosis, which is a thinning of the bone that can lead to compression fractures. Though this sounds ominous, kyphoplasty can be an outpatient procedure, and the patient can go home soon after the operation and doesn’t need to spend nights in the hospital. It can be done under local or general anesthesia. The operation stabilizes the bone and so eases the patient’s pain.
During the surgery, the doctor makes a small incision in the back. He or she then passes a needle through the incision. The needle, guided by fluoroscopy, is guided to the injured area in the spine. The surgeon then inserts a balloon through the needle then inflates it with care. Because of this, the procedure is sometimes called balloon kyphoplasty. As the balloon enlarges, it lifts the fracture, which repositions the fragments and causes the inner bone, which is soft, to be compacted. This also makes a cavity within the vertebrae.
When the balloon is finally removed, the surgeon fills the cavity with PMMA or polymethylmethacrylate. This substance is very much like cement, and it quickly hardens and thus stabilizes the vertebrae. The operation lasts about one hour per vertebrae.
Some patients may spend a night in the hospital, but some may be discharged after spending some time in the recovery room to make sure there are no complications from the surgery. The patient shouldn’t drive immediately after the surgery and should arrange for someone to take him or her home.
For a lot of patients, the pain of their spinal fracture will be eased right away. With others this might take a day or two. The patient can go back to his or her usual activities but should avoid strenuous exercise or activity for about a month and a half.
Who is a Candidate?
Candidates for kyphoplasty are most likely patients who’ve suffered compression fractures because of their osteoporosis and are suffering debilitating pain because of it. Ideally, the surgery should happen within eight months of the fracture. Kyphoplasty can also be performed on a patient who has a fracture due to cancer or an injury.