Painful vertebral compression fractures that do not respond to nonsurgical treatment options may be treated using a minimally invasive spine surgery known as a vertebroplasty. The procedure is very similar to a kyphoplasty. The decision to perform a kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty is based on the patient’s condition and the opinion/preference of the orthopedic spine surgeon who will be performing the procedure.
Some of the key benefits of a vertebroplasty include the following:
- A marked improvement in pain in a short period of time (often times within only a few days)
- A quick return to day-to-day activities and work
- Sustained pain relief
Additional benefits that are common with those seen for most minimally invasive spine surgeries include decreased surgical time, a shorter hospital stay, and little to no visible scarring.
Conditions Treated by Vertebroplasty
Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) are a special type of fracture characterized by tiny vertebral bone cracks that slowly develop and worsen over time. The most common cause of VCFs is osteoporosis, a chronic disease that weakens bones. Other causes of VCFs include injuries, car accidents, and bone tumors. When VCFs are diagnosed early, the likelihood of effectively treating them using nonsurgical treatment increases. Severe VCFs that are not diagnosed early or VCFs that do not respond to nonsurgical treatment options may require surgical intervention in the form of a vertebroplasty. Candidates for the procedure are typically non-smoking patients with no medical illnesses or conditions that may impair healing processes.
Benefits of Vertebroplasty
Vertebroplasty has been shown to achieve restoration of vertebral body height and correction of vertebral body deformity. Additional benefits include:
- Significant and sustained reduction in back pain
- Sustained vertebral body height restoration
- Significant and sustained improvement in quality of life
- Significant and sustained improvement in mobility
- Significant and sustained improvement in ability to perform activities of daily living
- Significant reduction in number of days per month that a patient remains in bed due to back pain
- Significant and sustained reduction in number of days per month when pain interferes with daily activities such as walking, hobbies, and work
A vertebroplasty may be performed using intravenous (IV) sedation and local anesthesia or general anesthesia. Patients who have surgery at DISC of LA will have their anesthesia administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist. Once the patient is comfortably sedated or asleep and can not feel any pain, the surgeon carries out the following steps to perform the procedure:
- Incision(s). One or two very tiny incisions are made near the compression fractured vertebra.
- Needle insertion. A special bone needle is placed in the incisions and gently guided through muscles and soft tissues into the fractured area. Live fluoroscopic x-ray guidance is always used to help the surgeon visualize the needle and spine structures.
- Bone cement injection. Once the needle is in a perfect position, medical grade bone cement is injected under live fluoroscopic guidance into the fractured area. The cement is first injected as a thick paste but quickly hardens to form a solid structure.
When x-rays demonstrate that lost vertebral height and anatomy due to compression fractures have been restored, the surgeon closes the incisions and places sterile dressings over them. Special adhesive bandages or Band-Aids are placed over the dressings to hold them in place. Total procedure time for a one vertebra vertebroplasty is approximately one hour. Following their procedure, patients are brought to the postoperative recovery room where they are monitored by anesthesiologists, registered nurses (RNs) and recovery staff. Once the effects of surgical anesthesia and medications wear off and the patient’s pain is under control, they may be allowed to be driven home by a friend or family member. It should be noted that in some cases an overnight hospital stay may be necessary.
Following vertebroplasty, most patients regain lost mobility and become more active, which helps combat osteoporosis. After the procedure, patients who had been immobile can get out of bed, and this can help reduce their risk of pneumonia.
If you have questions about spinal stenosis or the minimally invasive spine procedures offered by DISC of Louisiana, please contact us to schedule an evaluation at one of our clinics across the south Louisiana region.
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