Vertebroplasty is much like kyphoplasty in that it is a minimally invasive procedure performed to stabilize damaged vertebra and relieve pain. It is most commonly used to treat spinal fractures caused by chemotherapy, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) or trauma, and is typically more successful at relieving pain and restoring motion if performed within two months of the fracture.

Spinal fractures can cause severe pain and deformities if left untreated. A vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty may be recommended if more conservative methods such as physical therapy and medications have been unsuccessful at resolving symptoms.

Vertebroplasty involves injecting a specially formulated bone cement into the fractured vertebra with a needle, using advanced imaging technology for guidance.

About the Procedure

Patients are usually awake but sedated throughout the procedure. Most often, the surgeon will begin by manually resetting the broken vertebra while the patient lies face down.

Using a special X-ray for guidance, the surgeon inserts a needle through the skin in the back and deep into the fractured vertebra, filling in the spaces with the cement-like substance. It takes approximately 10 minutes for the cement to congeal. A second injection may be necessary, depending on the severity of the fracture.

The entire procedure typically lasts one hour. The skin puncture from the needle is covered with a bandage once the needle is removed.

Recovery and Physical Therapy

Vertebroplasty is usually an outpatient procedure, and most patients are discharged the same day as surgery. Bed rest is recommended for the first 24 hours following surgery. Most patients experience a high percentage of pain relief within two days following the procedure.

There are numerous post-operative benefits of vertebroplasty when compared to open surgery: a quicker recovery time, less pain, a lower risk of infection and increased post-operative mobility. Normal activities can generally be resumed within a few days. Patients are encouraged to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for at least six weeks following surgery.

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