Spinal compression fractures are often very painful. Typically, they’re caused by osteoporosis, a condition in which bones lose tissue and become fragile. People get these fractures anywhere on their spines, but they’re most common in the upper back. Spinal compression fractures occur when a bone in the spine has lost 15 – 20% of its height.
Patients suffering from such fractures aren’t just in pain. The fractures often lead to deformity, such as kyphosis (a hunched back) or height loss, and they can also crowd internal organs. Spinal compression fractures are common. Approximately 25% of postmenopausal women have had one, and they occur in about 700,000 people in the United States each year.
Kyphoplasty is a type of surgery that can mend spinal compression fractures. The surgery often reduces pain and improves other negative side-effects. Because of this, it is a common treatment option.
What is kyphoplasty? What happens during the surgery?
The goal of kyphoplasty is to reduce pain by stabilizing the bone. Kyphoplasty may also restore some of the height you have lost as a result of the fracture.
During the surgery, your surgeon will insert a needle into your bone. He or she will use an x-ray machine to place the needle correctly. Then, the surgeon will insert a small balloon into the fractured bone through the needle. The balloon creates space in the bone and restores it to the correct shape. The doctor removes the balloon and fills the newly formed hole with cement. You won’t need any stitches.
The surgery is typically performed at a hospital under local or general anesthesia. The procedure takes about an hour for each vertebra involved.
The healing process
Once the surgery is finished, you will be taken to a recovery room. Your surgeon will probably let you go home later that day, but some people need to stay up to two days at the hospital. You might experience pain where the needle is inserted, but this goes away after a few days.
Make sure you have somebody who can drive you home. In fact, most people can’t drive for up to two weeks. Before you get back on the road, make sure your doctor approves it.
Remember, driving while taking pain medication is illegal.
To heal quickly and properly, patients should rest as much as possible. Although you should be able to go back to work after two weeks, try to avoid heavy lifting for three months following your surgery. Talk to your doctor about specific guidelines for you.
Your doctor might suggest that you take certain medications or vitamins to help with your pain and healing.
Finally, your surgeon will refer you to a physical therapist. Take the physical therapy seriously. Your therapist will help you regain strength and flexibility. Physical therapy will help you get back to normal life as quickly as possible.
Kyphoplasty Risks and Non-Surgical Alternatives
Kyphoplasty is a low-risk surgery. There is less than 1% chance of significant bleeding, infection, nerve injury, spinal fluid leak, and paralysis. Reacting negatively to the cement is also extremely rare.
10- 15% of patients may have additional compression fractures later in life. However, most surgeons believe that this is caused by the same weak bones that caused the original fracture. In fact, kyphoplasty might reduce the chance of more fractures because it improves spine stability.
Other treatment options include rest, physical therapy, back braces, pain management techniques, and lifestyle changes.
Is kyphoplasty right for you?
Kyphoplasty can help patients suffering from osteoporosis or cancer. It mainly occurs when the bones themselves become weak and brittle. Because of this, kyphoplasty isn’t meant to treat herniated discs, scoliosis, or arthritis.
In addition, kyphoplasty is often used on older patients. The effects of cement on a young, relatively healthy body haven’t been studied in depth.
Typically, doctors suggest patients undergo kyphoplasty after they’ve tried non-surgical treatment options, such as bed rest or back braces. Some people also take bone-strengthening medication.
Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have a spinal compression fracture. They are easier to treat the sooner they are spotted. To evaluate if you should have a surgery, your doctor might:
- Take blood samples.
- Look at your back and ask about your symptoms.
- Take MRI or x-ray scans.
Make sure to tell your doctor where you are experiencing pain and when the pain occurs. Try making a list of questions you have for your physician so that you can get the most out of your visit.
Kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive surgery that helps reduce pain and improve mobility. If you believe you are suffering from a spinal compression fracture or you think kyphoplasty might be right for you, talk to your doctor. He or she will help you decide if the procedure is the right fit for your lifestyle and needs.