Vertebra Vertebrae – Plural
Vertebrae are the 33 bony or cartilaginous segments that connect to each other from end to end and make up the spinal column. At each end of a vertebra are pads of elastic or cartilaginous tissue called vertebral discs. Each vertebra has three parts – the body which bears the load, the arch which forms a protective covering around the spinal cord, and the transverse processes which attaches to the ligaments. There are seven cervical, twelve thoracic, five lumbar, five (fused sacral), and four (fused) coccygeal vertebrae.
Vertebral body is the main part of the anterior side of the vertebra. The vertebral body is made up of cancellous bone tissue which is surrounded by a layer of compact bone. The function of vertebral bodies is mainly to bear load so they are prone to compression fractures. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are some of the techniques for treating painful vertebral compression fractures.
Vertebral End Plates
Vertebral end plates are located at the very top and bottom of vertebral bodies. The end plates touch the vertebral discs located in-between the vertebral bodies. The end plates are made up of thick cancellous bone. Excessive force on the end plates can lead to fractures. MRI scans or discograms are used to investigate fractures in the vertebral end plate.
Vertebroplasty is a less invasive surgical technique during which bone cement is injected into a fractured vertebra using a needle. The procedure provides pain relief and is commonly used to treat painful osteoporotic compression fractures. Vertebroplasty is minimally invasive because open surgery is not required. Instead, a surgeon uses an x-ray equipment to provide guidance with inserting the needle.