What is kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty?

Kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty are techniques for treating vertebral compression fractures, which are small breaks in the thick mass of bone that makes up the front part of the vertebra (the vertebral body). Vertebral body fractures lead to the collapse or compression of a vertebra, causing the spine to shorten and curve forward. This can result in pain and a kyphotic (hunched-over) deformity.

Thinning of bones, or osteoporosis, is the main cause of vertebral compression fractures. Pathologic fractures related to spinal tumors may also be a cause of fractures.

During the kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty procedures, the patient will lie on his or her stomach. The doctor will insert a hollow needle, called a trocar, through the skin and into the vertebra. A type of X-ray, called fluoroscopy, is used to guide the trocar into proper position.

Once the trocar is in place, either cement (vertebroplasty) or an inflatable balloon-like device (kyphoplasty) are inserted into the vertebra through the trocar. During a kyphoplasty, as the balloon is inflated, it opens up a space to be filled with bone cement.

Who is a candidate for kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty procedures?

Kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty are generally reserved for people with painful progressive (increasing) back pain caused by osteoporotic or pathologic vertebral compression fractures. Candidates for these procedures often have a reduced ability to move and function because of the fractures.

To be a candidate for a kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty, a patient's pain must be related to the vertebral fracture, and must not be due to other problems, such as disk herniation, arthritis, or stenosis (narrowing). Imaging tests - such as spinal X-rays, bone scans, and computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans - might be ordered to confirm the presence of a vertebral fracture.

What type of anesthesia is used during a kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty procedure?

Kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty are considered minimally invasive procedures that are most often performed using general anesthesia, depending on the doctor and the needs of the patient. The procedure is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, and the patients are discharged home the same day.