What is kyphoplasty?

Kyphoplasty is a procedure used to treat fractures or breaks in the vertebrae. The vertebrae are the bones in your back that are stacked on top of each other to make your spine. Your spine supports your weight, allows you to move, and protects your spinal cord and the nerves.

Kyphoplasty is often discussed
along with another procedure called vertebroplasty. First the healthcare provider
inflates 1 or 2 small balloon-like devices into the broken vertebra to partly restore
the height of the vertebra. The balloon(s) can then be removed or left in place in the
vertebra. A cement-like material is injected in the cavity created by the balloon(s).
With vertebroplasty, there is no balloons. The healthcare provider just injects a
cement-like material into the fractured vertebra to make it more stable.

Why might I need kyphoplasty?

You may need a kyphoplasty if you
have certain types of fractures, or broken areas, in the vertebrae. In most cases,
thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) is the cause of these fractures. The vertebrae can
also be broken or fractured in accidents or from cancer. The fractures cause the bones
to collapse or become compressed. The fractures can cause pain, nerve damage, or lead to
a hunched-over posture (kyphosis).

Kyphoplasty may make the bone a little taller to help make up for the height it loses when it’s compressed. The procedure often also relieves pain.

Usually healthcare providers
perform kyphoplasty only after other treatments have failed. These may include wearing
a back brace, limiting activity, or taking pain medicine for 6 to 12 weeks. Most
vertebral fractures do not need to be treated with kyphoplasty.

What are the risks of kyphoplasty?

The risks involved in kyphoplasty include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Increased back pain
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness
    because of nerve damage
  • Allergic reactions to the dyes used
    during the X-rays that help the healthcare provider put the balloon(s) in the right
  • Cement leaking out of position and
    compressing vital structures, such as the spinal cord

The amount of radiation used during the X-ray procedures is considered minimal, and the risks related to radiation exposure are very low. But if you are pregnant or suspect that you might be, tell your healthcare provider.

There may be other risks, depending
on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare
provider before the procedure.

How do I get ready for kyphoplasty?

Your healthcare provider will meet
with you before the procedure to check your health and do a physical exam. You will also
have some tests done, such as X-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan (which
helps your healthcare provider see the fractures) and blood tests.

MRI Scan

Talk with your healthcare provider
about any medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements you’re taking and if you’re
allergic to any medicines or the dyes used during certain X-rays.

You may need to stop taking aspirin
or blood thinners before kyphoplasty. You may be told to not eat or drink anything for
several hours before the surgery. Bring someone with you to the procedure to drive you
home afterward.

Talk with your healthcare provider
about what you need to do before your procedure.