Vertebroplasty is a surgical procedure performed to relive pain resulting from compression fractures of the spine caused by spinal instability. Since fractures tend to heal without surgical intervention, this minimally invasive procedure isn’t performed as often as fusions and other types of spine surgery. It becomes an option for patients when spinal instability is resulting in persistent pain not responding to other treatments.
How the Procedure Is Performed
Patients undergoing a vertebroplasty receive a local anesthesia with light sedation. A needle is inserted into the vertebrae to inject a cement substance into the fractured vertebra to fill the spaces left by the fracture. After the mixture is injected, it usually hardens in about half an hour. Once the mixture hardens, stability is restored to the spine. Possible adverse reactions include:
• Allergic reactions to the anesthesia or cement mixture
• Nerve damage following the procedure, although this is rare
• Pulmonary embolism (blood clot that travels to the lungs)
• Infection at the injection site
Note: Complications, while rare, occur more often when more than one vertebra needs to be treated.
After the Procedure Is Performed
The injection site is covered with a bandage and the patient is observed for a short period of time before being allowed to return home. The procedure can be performed as an outpatient procedure, or in the hospital when closer observation is likely to be required. Patients with lingering effects from the anesthesia or without assistance at home may remain in the hospital overnight.
When a Vertebroplasty Is Recommended
While a vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive back procedure, it’s only performed when patients fail to experience relief with non-surgical treatments. The procedure also tends to recommended when:
• Pain becomes increasingly severe
• Fractures have been identified at multiple locations
• There is a noticeable deformity resulting from the weakened spine
A vertebroplasty usually takes 1-2 hours to perform. Recovery includes initial bed rest for a day or so after the procedure. Patients are encouraged to gradually increase activity. Ice packs can help with any lingering soreness around the injection site. Some patients report relief lasting for three years or more following the procedure.
Learn more about vertebroplasty or other decompression spine surgery options by reaching out to Dr. Bae and his team of spine specialists at The Spine Center by calling (310) 828-7757 and requesting an in-person consultation.