Vertebral augmentation is a general term for any spinal surgery that uses bone cement to stabilize a fractured vertebra. As the cement hardens, it forms an internal cast inside your vertebrae that holds the bone together as it heals. This can also reduce your pain from the fracture.
There are a few different types of vertebral augmentation surgery, but the main two are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty.
Your doctor may recommend one of these procedures if you have a fractured vertebra that’s causing you pain. Vertebral augmentation surgeries are minimally invasive with short recovery times. They are usually performed as outpatient procedures, meaning that you can typically expect to go home the same day as your surgery.
Read on for an in-depth look at:
- Why you may want vertebral augmentation surgery
- The differences between vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty
- What you can expect before, during, and after your procedure
When should you get vertebral augmentation surgery?
Most of the time, vertebral augmentation surgeries are recommended to treat painful compression fractures in the spine. This set of procedures includes vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, both of which can reduce and stabilize the effects of these fractures.
A vertebral compression fracture is when one or more of the bones in your spine crack and collapse. This can cause pain, deformity, and loss of height, stability, and mobility. Vertebral augmentation can help relieve pain and restore height and strength to the spine.
One of the most common causes of compression fractures is osteoporosis, a condition that can cause bones to become weak and brittle. If you have osteoporosis, fractures can sometimes be caused by mild stresses, including coughing, bending over, or falling.
Compression fractures can also be caused by cancerous tumors or trauma to the spine, such as from a car accident or sports injury.
Vertebral augmentation surgeries are common because of their high success rates and short recovery times. They’re preferred over more invasive surgeries like spinal fusion because they come with lower risks, shorter surgical times and hospital stays, and faster recoveries.
What happens during vertebral augmentation surgery?
There are two main types of vertebral augmentation surgery: vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Both procedures involve injecting bone cement into fractured vertebrae. During vertebral augmentation surgery, you will either be given general anesthesia or local anesthesia and light sedation. Either way, you won’t feel pain during your procedure.
During a vertebroplasty, the surgeon uses a hollow needle to inject bone cement directly into the fractured vertebrae. They use real-time x-ray images to guide the placement of the needle. When the cement dries, it acts as an internal cast to stabilize the bone as it heals from the fracture.
Kyphoplasty is similar to vertebroplasty, except the surgeon first uses the needle to insert a balloon into the fractured vertebrae. They inflate the balloon to restore height to the spinal column and create a space for the bone cement. Then, they inject the cement into the balloon, where it helps stabilize the vertebrae and compress the fracture fragments together as the bone heals.
Vertebral augmentation surgeries are typically outpatient procedures. Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty take about an hour to perform, and most patients are able to go home the same day.
What are the risks and benefits of vertebral augmentation?
Vertebral augmentation procedures are common, and they’re considered a safe and effective way to treat fractured vertebrae. The surgery doesn’t require any incisions or stitches. Instead, you’ll only have a small nick in the skin from the needle, which should heal quickly.
After the procedure, patients usually experience an increase in mobility that allows them to return to their normal activity levels without pain. This increased activity can help combat osteoporosis and other conditions caused or worsened by immobility. It can also help you increase your physical fitness and build muscle, which can improve your mobility even more.
Like any procedure, vertebral augmentation comes with a small risk of minor complications, such as infection, allergic reaction to the bone cement, or bleeding at the puncture site. Rare side effects may include cement leakage, inflammation around the injection site, and blood clots.
Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are elective procedures, meaning that it’s ultimately your decision whether vertebral augmentation is the right option for you. To make an informed choice, you can talk with a doctor or surgeon familiar with your case. You can also do your own research online.
Remember, you always have the right to ask for a second opinion when you’re making decisions about your healthcare.
What can you expect from your recovery after vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty?
Right after your surgery, you may feel sore in the area where the bone cement was injected. This should go away within a few hours to a few days. Your surgeon may recommend putting ice on the area to help relieve any soreness.
You’ll need someone to drive you home on the day of your surgery. Your doctor will advise when you can return to your normal activities, but it should either be the day of your procedure or the day after. However, strenuous activities (like heavy lifting or intense exercise) should be avoided for six weeks.
Most patients feel relief from their back pain almost immediately, though it can take up to three days for the pain to go away completely. After this procedure, 75% of patients find pain relief, regain lost mobility, and return to their normal activity levels.
If you have pain from a compression fracture that’s not going away with non-surgical treatments, vertebral augmentation may be the answer you’re looking for. As you research your options and decide whether this surgery is right for you, you may have questions about what you’ll be expected to pay.
New Choice Health’s Spine Surgery Assist program can help you find a fair cost for your vertebral augmentation surgery, as well as cash pay discounts and financing that will reduce what you pay out-of-pocket for your procedure.