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Spine care: Kyphoplasty

SpineSpinal compression fractures can take a toll on your body and your quality of life. These fractures are common when there has been a loss of bone density due to osteoporosis or certain types of cancer. Often, there are no symptoms and the fractures will resolve themselves. However, in cases where the fractures lead to misalignment of the spine, chronic pain, respiratory problems, or even incapacity, intervention is necessary.

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can help restore strength and structure to the spine after compression fractures have occurred.

How it works

Osteoporosis and certain types of cancer cause the bones to become very porous, or even full of small holes. The daily stress of the weight of the body can cause the vertebrae to collapse, either partially or completely. Much like a building that has been demolished, the affected vertebrae lacks its former structure, but the remnants of the bone still reside in the same place in the spine.

Kyphoplasty uses a balloon inserted through a needle into the spine to create a cavity that duplicates the fractured vertebrae's former height and shape. The balloon is then removed and a cement mixture is injected into the cavity, once again solidifying the vertebrae and restoring proper alignment of the spine.

What to expect

You will wear a hospital gown during your procedure. Before the procedure begins, a nurse will insert an IV line into your arm for medications and fluids, and you will be connected to monitors that track your heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse during the procedure. You will be sedated, or possibly put under general anesthesia during the procedure.

You will lie face down for the procedure. Your skin will be cleansed with a special soap, and possibly shaved, at the site where the needle will be inserted, and a local anesthetic will be used to numb the site. Sterile drapes will be used to cover the insertion site during the procedure. A small cut will be made in the skin just before the needle is inserted.

When the procedure begins, the radiologist will use imaging guidance to situate the needle in the proper position in the fractured vertebra. The balloon is then inserted through the needle and inflated. As it inflates, it will push the bone back into the proper position and create a cavity. The balloon is removed, then the cavity is injected with a special bone cement.

After the cement is injected, the needle is removed and pressure is applied to stop any bleeding. A bandage will be applied to cover the area, but no stitches will necessary. You will remain in the recovery room for about an hour following the procedure, then you will stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring.

Recovery

When you are released from the hospital, you will be able to walk. You will need someone else to drive you home, and we recommend you have someone help you at home for the next couple of days. Bed rest is recommended for the first 24 hours, and after that you should gradually increase your activity.

Your back may be sore for several days at the site where the needle was inserted. An ice pack is recommended to relieve discomfort. Your bandage will need to stay in place for several days, even during showers.

The pre-existing back pain caused by the damaged vertebra should decrease within two days after the procedure, although some patients report immediate relief.

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