When the spine transforms from a supple and relatively straight structure to one that starts to collapse on itself, correcting the problem may require a surgical procedure called kyphoplasty.
Imagine your spine, when viewed in profile, as a series of C shapes:
- a subtle inverted C in the upper (cervical) area
- a C in the middle (thoracic) region
- a mildly inverted C that forms the lower (lumbar) region
When vertebrae become brittle the spine can end up compressed — and the C shapes more pronounced.
In many cases this process is a result of osteoporotic compression fractures — vertebrae that are weakened and eventually lose their structure because of a bone disease called osteoporosis. Over time these damaged vertebrae can no longer support the spine, causing it to fold.
One way to reverse this painful process is a procedure called Kyphoplasty.
What is Kyphoplasty?
Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure targeting the spine.
Besides repairing vertebrae damaged by osteoporosis kyphoplasty may repair bones affected by:
- Certain cancers
- Injury or trauma to the spine
During kyphoplasty the patient lies flat on the stomach. He or she is given a sedative or general anesthetic to “sleep” during the procedure.
The surgeon then uses X-ray images as a guide and eventually inserts a hollow needle into the patient’s damaged vertebra.
Since fractures have compressed the area, a balloon-like device is inserted into the vertebra and expanded.
When the balloon fully expands, the space created is filled with a quick-drying substance that helps to prop open the collapsed vertebra.
Once the substance dries, it can restore the shape and structure of the vertebra, usually resulting in less pain and possibly a lengthened spine.
When is Kyphoplasty Necessary?
A review of 69 studies found that 92% of the time kyphoplasty relieves pain in patients but new fractures in other areas of the spine may occur after the procedure.
Another study suggests that patients who undergo this procedure — in the short term — experience pain relief, use less medication to manage their pain, are less disabled and have better overall health.
It is less clear whether those results last long-term.
What About Risks?
There aren’t many risks involved with kyphoplasty — they include those inherent with any type of surgery including anesthesia-related complications, infection and bleeding. There also is a small risk the cement may leak out of the bone and compress a nerve or travel to the lungs or other organs.
Patients who undergo kyphoplasty may feel a twinge of pain around the injection site but tend to resume normal activity and feel less discomfort within a couple of days.
If you suspect osteoporosis-related compression fractures — and your condition is progressing — do yourself a favor and see a spine specialist.
Need more guidance? Contact us, online or give us a call 323-319-2897 and we will be happy to help.