What is a vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty is a surgical procedure that is used to relieve the pain that is caused by a compression fracture of the spine. This can be caused by osteoporosis, multiple myeloma, a spinal trauma or less commonly cancer. During the procedure, ‘bone cement’ is injected into the vertebral body which helps to reinforce the weakened vertebrae and therefore prevent further vertebral collapse.

A vertebroplasty can be extremely beneficial if you have a vertebral fracture. Patients often feel significant relief within a few hours of the surgery. Within the first week of the surgery, two thirds of patients are able to lower their dose of medication. After surgery and recovery, many patients become symptoms free, allowing them to become more active and can also help to combat osteoporosis. The increase in mobility level can help to build up muscle strength, and therefore benefit you in many more ways.

The procedure can be carried out under local anaesthetic (numbing the area that will be operated on) or under general anaesthetic (meaning that you are asleep). Using X-ray guidance, a hollow needle is pit into the body of the vertebra. Once the tip of the needle is positioned correctly, the liquid cement is injected. The cement hardens inside the fractured vertebrae within a few minutes.

The duration of the procedure changes depending on how many vertebrae are treated, however it usually about one hour.

After the procedure you will be taken into recovery and monitored closely. It is likely that you will experience some discomfort in the area of the incisions, however you will be given painkillers to ease the pain. The incision usually heals within one week of the surgery. You may have an appointment with the physiotherapist to work on movement in your back.

If you return home on the same day, it is recommended that you have someone with you until the effects of the sedation have worn off. Your consultant will make sure that you know what you are doing at home to ensure that you have a full and quick recovery.

A vertebroplasty is a safe procedure and is rare to have any serious complications. Depending on where the vertebroplasty is carried out, there may be some small risks. Potential risks include:

  • Bleeding or bruising around the incision mark

  • Infection (this is very rare)

  • Allergic react to medication or the cement

  • Discomfort or mild pain at the site of the surgery

  • Leakage of cement

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.


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