The aging adult population is prone to spinal fractures and subsequent malformation and pain due to a gradual loss in bone density and strength. In the beginning stages of bone loss, a lower-than-normal thickness is noted during a specialized x-ray, or bone scan. As the amount of bone matter decreases, the condition progresses to osteopenia and then onto osteoporosis. Fractures and changes in the height and natural curve of the spinal structures can occur at any stage of bone loss, and kyphoplasty surgery is a highly successful procedure that can help reinforce the vertebrae and relieve pain.
The operation is a minimally invasive spine procedure and requires either local or general anesthesia. At the start of the procedure, the surgeon will typically create two one-inch incisions at the target area. The damaged vertebra is then reached via tubes through which surgical tools are inserted. Once the internal site is located, a balloon is placed within the affected vertebra. By using x-ray imaging during the operation, the balloon is inflated with liquid until the collapsed area regains the desired height. The expanding liquid is then drained from the balloon, and a specialized bone cement is run through the surgical tubes in order to fill the new cavity. The filler hardens within minutes and is designed to permanently maintain the new expanded height.
Most patients are able to get up and walk around a few hours after surgery and return home the next day. Prescription pain pills are rarely required after the fifth postoperative day, and physician-approved over-the-counter medications are usually sufficient for alleviating discomfort. Most doctors will recommend patients adopt a routine of walking that is increased daily, and formal physical therapy generally begins two weeks post-op.
Most patients who undergo the surgery report up to 90 percent reduction in pain after they have gone through a reasonable recovery period. Return of lost height and an increase in mobility are also benefits seen postoperatively. Kyphoplasty is also useful for correcting and preventing spinal abnormalities caused by the aging vertebrae.
If you’re living with a spinal condition that prevents you from doing the things you most enjoy, reach out to The Spine Center by calling (310) 828-7757. Our experienced team of spine surgeons in Los Angeles is lead by Dr. Hyun Bae, the center’s medical director, and provides patients with a wealth of information on treatment options.