Spine Treatments: Vertebroplasty

vertebroplastyVertebroplasty may offer hope for patients who have severe back pain caused by a compression fracture of the spine due to osteoporosis or metastatic disease of the spine. These conditions can cause the vertebrae in the spine to become brittle and break or fracture. The resulting compression fracture in turn can lead to an abnormal spine curvature.

In the past, compression fractures were treated with pain medications, bed rest and bracing. Vertebroplasty offers another option for patients for whom such conservative treatments are not effective in reducing pain or for those who are not good candidates for major spine surgery.

In general, vertebroplasty is recommended for those with a fairly recent fracture (6 months or less). Physicians will use X-rays, MRI, and bone scans to determine if a patient is a good candidate for this procedure.

Performed with the assistance of fluoroscopic imaging, vertebroplasty is a relatively quick procedure. In most cases, vertebroplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure requiring a local anesthetic. Once the targeted area of the spine is numb, the physician inserts needles into a small incision through which acrylic bone cement is placed into the fractured vertebrae.

The cement stabilizes the vertebra resulting in significant pain reduction as soon as 24 hours. Most experience an ongoing reduction in pain that lasts as long as one to three years.

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