Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are both techniques to treat compression fractures (broken bones) in the spine. These fractures are common in people with osteoporosis, a disease that causes thin, weak bones, especially in older patients or those that take certain medications. In fact, nearly one million people suffer vertebral fractures every year. Fractures can also occur in patients who have tumors that may have spread to the spine (metastasis). They can cause significant pain and disability and take many months to heal. Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are very effective procedures in reducing the severity of symptoms from these fractures and helping the patient regain lost mobility and independence. Both Neurointerventionalists, as well as Peripheral Interventionalists, perform these procedures.

What happens during kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty?

Before the procedure, you will have met with your interventionalist / neurointerventionalist in an office visit and discussed the procedure and its risks and benefits.

Prior to your procedure, we’ll take you to a preparation area where our nurses will start an IV in your arm and give you any medication that may be required prior to your procedure. We may give you medicines to protect your kidneys, pain medications, antibiotics to help prevent infection, and anti-nausea medications.

We’ll take you to a special room similar to an operating room. This procedure is typically done with local anesthesia and sedation medications. We often use conscious sedation, or moderate anesthesia, during a kyphoplasty procedure, so you’ll remain slightly awake. We will monitor your pulse, blood pressure, and your breathing throughout the procedure. We’ll place sterile drapes over your body and apply a local anesthetic so you don’t feel any pain.

During the procedure, you will lie on your stomach. Your interventionalist will make a small incision (or two) in your back and, using image guidance, will insert a special needle through the bone until it reaches the compression fracture (broken bone) in your spine. If you are undergoing vertebroplasty, we’ll inject a cement mixture through a hollow needle (trocar) into the fractured bone and then withdraw the catheter. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the cement to harden.

If you are undergoing a kyphoplasty, we’ll first insert a deflated balloon through the catheter, inflating it within the vertebral body to create a space and possibly realign the fracture. Then we’ll remove the balloon and inject the cement mixture in and around the space.

At the end of the procedure, your neurointerventionalist or interventionalist will withdraw the needles and apply pressure to stop the blood from leaking out. Finally, we’ll put a bandage over the incision.

After your procedure, your interventionalist or neurointerventionalist will review the results of your kyphoplasty with you and your physician so he or she can discuss the next steps with you. This may include taking special medications to strengthen your bones. Your physician may also prescribe a special brace to protect and support your back.