A spinal compression fracture (also known as a vertebral compression fracture) occurs when a spinal vertebra fractures and collapses. It may be triggered by the trauma of a fall or accident but the trauma is more likely to cause a fracture when the bones of the spine are already weakened, usually by osteoporosis.
“Compression fractures can be very painful,” says Dr. Kaliq Chang, interventional pain management specialist at Atlantic Spine Center. “When the vertebra fractures, bone fragments rub against each other or may protrude into the spinal column. Multiple fractures can cause the spine to shrink and hunch forward, resulting in a stooped posture and forward curvature of the spine that can make walking difficult and cause several serious health problems. When non-invasive treatment isn't effective, a minimally-invasive surgical procedure called balloon kyphoplasty can correct the deformity and relieve pain.”
Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive, FDA-approved surgical procedure that effectively creates an “internal cast” inside the fractured vertebrae with the goal of stabilizing the spine, reducing the spinal curvature, and relieving pain. Through a tiny incision and using x-ray guidance, the physician uses a hollow needle to insert a balloon into the fractured vertebra. The balloon is inflated to create a cavity, then removed, and bone cement is injected into the cavity to create the cast. The procedure is completed in about an hour – longer if more than one vertebra is fractured – and is usually performed on an out-patient basis.
“Following the procedure, patients are advised to increase their activity level gradually,” says Dr. Chang. “They can usually return to their normal daily activities right away but should avoid strenuous exertion for several weeks. Pain relief is immediate for many patients and takes two or three days for others. Soreness at the injection site recedes in a few days.”
Kyphoplasty is generally recommended when non-invasive treatments such as bed rest, bracing, and pain medications have not been effective. It has the highest probability of success when performed within eight weeks of the fracture. “Most patients regain lost mobility following kyphoplasty.” says Dr. Chang, “and increased mobility can help prevent further deterioration of their bones and prevent another fracture.
For photos and more information on Kyphoplasty: http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com/treatments/kyphoplasty/