Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive treatment aimed to correct Vertebral fractures through decompression.
A fundamental element of our skeletal system is the backbone, which provides us with fluid movement, flexibility, stability and protection for our spinal cords. The backbone is a segmented structure comprised of vertebrae and cartilaginous intervertebral discs.
Like any other bone in the body, the various vertebrae are subject to degenerative conditions, caused mostly by osteoporosis, which makes them prone to suffer VCFs, or vertebral compression fractures. These could be produced by traumatic accidents, some cancers, and poor health maintenance.
Usually, VCFs affect the lower back where the weight load is greater.
Accumulation of multiple fractures can cause deformity of the backbone which develops a forward-slanted bend. This is called kyphosis, and affects breathing, eating, sleeping, etc.
Usually, VCFs are treated with pain medication, bracings, and a lot of rest. However, if the vertebral fractures do not heal properly, or quick enough, vertebroplasty will be the active approach patients should pursue in order to experience faster, more complete relief from their symptoms.
This surgical procedure aims to:
- Limit and reduce pain.
- Restore the vertebrae to its original height
- Restore the functional use of a healthy backbone
- Return the spine to its correct alignment and stability
Vertebroplasty is indicated when there are:
- Osteoporosis induced fractures in the backbone
- Fractures caused by cancer, kidneys disease, lymphoma.
- Painful backbone deformity caused by VCF´s, especially when it is unresponsive to conservative treatments.
A thorough inspection of the patient’s back is required in order to confidently conclude that Vertebroplasty is the best treatment option. This will involve a quick initial consultation where the doctor and patient will discuss the patient’s medical history, current symptoms and the doctor will perform a physical exam. Following the findings of the initial meeting, the doctor may choose to order more advanced tests that look inside the patient’s body in the affected area. Diagnostic tests for Vertebroplasty include:
- Physical Examination
- Ct Scan
- Bone Density Test
Vertebroplasty is a surgery that is conducted within a sterile operating room. Patients will be under general anesthesia to avoid pain during the procedure. Once the anesthesia sets in, the surgical team will begin the operation:
- After cutting the skin over the fracture´s location, a needle is inserted
- Subsequently, medical-grade bone cement is injected through the needle (trocar)
- The surgery is conducted with the guidance of live X-ray imaging
- The needle is then taken out to stitch and bandage the cut skin
- The same imaging methods used to diagnose the condition are then used to ascertain if the procedure was successful in filling up the fracture
Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure, so most of the patients go home the very same day of surgery. Many patients report feeling immediate relief.
After Vertebroplasty, patients are recommended to:
- Stay in bed for the next 24 hours
- If pain is present, take pain medications to limit discomfort
- Ice the affected area for 20 minutes to reduce swelling
- Avoid vigorous activity for up to 6 weeks (work with your doctor for a more precise timeline)
- Physical rehabilitation for a few weeks after surgery can help promote healing and strengthen back muscles
Risks of Vertebroplasty
As with any surgery that involves any degree of invasiveness, the potential for risk exists. That being said, doctors will never suggest a treatment option that offers more risks than benefits.
Complications can include:
- Nerve damage
- Leaked cement
- Persistent back painl
- Loss of sensation and itchy skin