Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure for the treatment of painful vertebral compression fractures (VCF), which are fractures in the spine.
When a vertebral body fractures, the usual rectangular shape of the bone becomes compressed, causing pain. These compression fractures may involve the collapse of one or more vertebrae in the spine and are a common result of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that results in a loss of normal bone density, mass and strength, leading to a condition in which bones are increasingly porous, and vulnerable to breaking. Vertebrae may also become weakened by cancer.
You are an ideal candidate for vertebroplasty if you:
- are elderly or frail and will likely have impaired bone healing after a fracture
- have vertebral compression due to a malignant tumor
- suffer from osteoporosis due to long-term steroid treatment or a metabolic disorder
In vertebroplasty, pain physicians use image guidance to inject a cement mixture into the fractured bone through a hollow needle. Shortly after the cement has hardened, the patient is free to leave the pain clinic and can go home the same day. If the patient needs further observation after the procedure, is particularly frail, or will not have assistance at home, a short stay in the pain clinic may be recommended.
For the first 24 hours after vertbroplasty, bedrest is usually recommended. Activities may be increased gradually and most regular medications can be resumed. There may be some soreness for a few days at the puncture site which may be relieved with an ice pack.
Many patients undergoing percutaneous vertebroplasty experience 90 percent or better reduction in pain within 24-48 hours and increased ability to perform daily activities shortly thereafter. Recent research has demonstrated that percutaneous vertebroplasty can relieve pain from vertebral compression fractures for up to nearly three years following the procedure.
Vertebroplasty has several benefits:
- Return to normal activity: Many people with compression fractures are unable to do everyday tasks because of the pain. Vertebroplasty stabilizes the fracture, allowing most people to resume previous levels of activity within a few days.
- Reduced pain medication: Vertebroplasty reduces and sometimes eliminates the need for pain medication.
- Prevention of further fractures: The cement fills the spaces in bone weakened by osteoporosis. The treated bone is less likely to crack or fracture again.