Resources

Q

What is vertebroplasty?

A

Vertebroplasty is a non-surgical procedure to stabilize broken bones in the spine caused by osteoporosis. In the procedure, a needle about the size of a cocktail straw is inserted through the skin into the crushed vertebrae. Surgical bone cement is injected into the vertebrae to stabilize it. Surgery is not required because the interventional radiologist is able to guide the needle to the right spot using special X-ray equipment. Vertebroplasty takes one or two hours to perform depending on how many bones are treated. The procedure is performed with a local anesthetic that numbs the area to be treated.

Q

Is the procedure safe?

A

Even though it is a relatively new treatment in the United States, vertebroplasty has been preformed for more than a decade at several centers in France with excellent results. The injection technique has been successfully used for a number of years in the U.S. to treat other conditions in the spine. The bone cement used to stabilize the fractured vertebrae has been shown to be safe through many years of use in joint replacement surgeries and other orthopedic procedures. Vertebroplasty is a very safe procedure with few risks or complications. In many studies, no complications were reported.

Q

Who is a candidate for vertebroplasty?

A

People who have suffered recent compressing fractures that are causing them moderate to severe back pain are the best candidates for vertebroplasty. In some cases, older fractures may be treated, but the procedure is most successful if it is performed soon after the fracture occurs. The procedure is not used to treat chronic back pain or herniated disks.

Q

How successful is vertebroplasty?

A

Patients experience immediate pain relief after vertebroplasty. Most report their pain is gone or significantly better within 48 hours. Patients are sent home within 2 hours following the procedure, and can resume their normal daily activities immediately. Studies have shown that from 75 to 90% of people treated with vertebroplasty will have complete or significant reduction in of their pain.