What is vertebroplasty?
Vertebroplasty 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 nerves.
In vertebroplasty, your healthcare provider injects a special thick cement mixture
into a fractured vertebra. When vertebroplasty is successful, the cement mixture stabilizes
the vertebra and allows you to return to normal activity after a recovery period.
Why might I need vertebroplasty?
The main reason you would need a vertebroplasty is to treat a fractured vertebra in
your spine that’s causing pain and reduced ability to function. But not all people
with fractured vertebrae are candidates for this procedure.
Your healthcare provider may try more conservative ways to treat the pain during the
first 6 weeks after the fracture. This may include bed rest, pain medicines, muscle
relaxants, back braces, or physical therapy.
These are common reasons that your healthcare provider may consider a vertebroplasty
for your fractured vertebra:
Traditional methods of treating your fractured vertebra or back pain are not working.
You suffer from severe or prolonged pain or immobility.
The fractured vertebra has led to more serious complications, such as deep vein thrombosis
(blood clots in your legs), breathing problems, loss of height, or other emotional
or social issues.
The fracture was caused by osteoporosis, which means you are at a higher risk for
What are the risks of vertebroplasty?
Vertebroplasty is generally well-tolerated and low risk. These are the more common
risk factors associated with this procedure:
Surrounding vertebral fractures
Increased back pain
Tingling, numbness, or weakness because of nerve damage
Cement leaking out of position and compressing other organs or the spinal cord
In a few people, vertebroplasty can actually worsen the pain for a few hours as the
cement sets up. This complication is rare, though, and passes after a short time.
There may be other risks, depending on your specific health condition. Talk about
any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
How do I get ready for vertebroplasty?
Your healthcare provider will probably order X-rays, take a complete medical history,
and do a physical exam to determine the exact location and true nature of your vertebra-related
Your healthcare provider will likely also need an MRI or CT scan to see your spine
in greater detail and help rule out other back problems.
Tell your healthcare provider about all prescription and over-the-counter medicines and
any vitamins, herbs, and supplements that you are taking.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you
are taking any blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medicine, aspirin, or other medicines that
affect blood clotting. You may be told to stop these medicines before the procedure.
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 to your healthcare provider about what you need to do before your procedure.
What happens during vertebroplasty?
An anesthesia provider will put an IV line into a vein in your hand or arm to give
you medicine. You will either be given medicine to relax you and keep you from feeling
pain or to make you go to sleep during the procedure. You will lie face down on an
operating table during the surgery. X-ray equipment will be nearby.
The healthcare provider will put a needle through your skin and back muscles and into
the spinal bone (the vertebra). Next, your healthcare provider will inject the cement
mixture into the bone. While this is done, he or she will check X-ray images to help
ensure that the cement goes into the right place. Depending on how the cement enters
the vertebra, you may need a second injection to completely fill it. The healthcare
provider will then remove the needle. You will not need stitches in your back.
The entire procedure will probably take less than an hour. If the healthcare provider
needs to treat more than one vertebra, it may take longer. You will spend time in
a recovery room after the surgery. You will probably lie flat on your back for about
an hour while the cement hardens. You may be able to go home the same day, but your
healthcare provider might want you to stay overnight.
Talk with your healthcare provider about what to expect during your vertebroplasty.
What happens after vertebroplasty?
You may be able to start walking about an hour after the procedure. It’s normal to
feel some soreness where the needle was put into your back. This might last a few
days. You may notice right away that you have less pain in your back than you did
before the surgery. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether you should avoid
any activities after the procedure.
You may have pain relief almost immediately after the procedure, but for some people
it takes up to 72 hours. Your healthcare provider may provide you with pain relievers
to help ease the discomfort.
If the fracture was caused by osteoporosis, your healthcare provider may suggest that
you take certain vitamins, minerals, or medicines to help strengthen your bones and
help prevent more fractures in your spine.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions about what you should do
after your procedure. Be sure you understand the instructions and how to use any prescription
medicines you’re given. Also know how to reach the healthcare provider if you have
any problems and when your next appointment is scheduled.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how you will get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure