12 Oct Kyphoplasty
Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that is designed to restore the functionality of a vertebral segment that has partially collapsed, leading to a compression fracture. The collapsing can occur when the bones of the vertebral column have become weakened due to osteoporosis or other illnesses, such as cancer.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that literally means “porous bones.” As you can imagine, a porous bone is much weaker than a healthy bone. Over time, osteoporosis can lead to bone deterioration to the point that the individual vertebrae weaken and collapse. The collapsing generally in the front where the most stress is found due to the orientation of the spinal column. Instead of a stable, uniform shape and height, a collapsed vertebra breaks down in front but remains intact on the backside. The vertebra becomes wedge-shaped.
Of course, it can be very painful when a vertebra collapses. The pain is one of the symptoms to expect, but the pain, often, is alleviated when the patient lies down, taking the weight off of the collapsed vertebrae that could be putting pressure on one or more nerves.
The lower down in the spine you go, the larger the vertebrae and the more weight they support. Collapsing vertebrae generally occur in the thoracic, middle section of the spinal column, occurring with vertebrae T-1 through T-12. However, it can also occur in a lower vertebra in the lumbar region, where the vertebrae are designated L-1 through L-5.
Symptoms of Collapsed Vertebrae
- Intense back pain
- Pain sometimes radiating through arms or legs
- Potential pain relief from lying down
- Bone scans that show misshapen vertebrae with fracture lines
- Loss of height
If you look at a single vertebra from above, it almost looks like a drinking cup with an odd-shaped handle. From the side, you can see that the cup has depth to it. As a collapsed vertebra generally collapses in the load-bearing drinking cup section, you can imagine the collapse causing a series of fractures. This often causes the patient to stoop forward and can result in lost height along with the hunched over posture.
The Kyphoplasty Procedure
The kyphoplasty procedure is considered a minimally invasive surgical procedure that can be done in a medical clinic, as opposed to a hospital. It is frequently done right at the doctor’s office. The procedure begins a small incision made behind the collapsed vertebrae. Doctors then use scanning imagery to guide them, inserting a tube into place with the end inside the collapsed vertebrae.
A balloon is then inserted into the tube and inflated. By inflating the balloon, the collapsed vertebra is forced back to its original, upright shape. The balloon is then removed. With the balloon removed, the doctor then uses the tube to fill the vertebral cavity with PMMA, a special, quick-drying bone cement. This hardens within five to 10 minutes.
Frequently, doctors then elect to repeat the procedure on the other side of the vertebra to ensure balance and ad additional strength. The tube is then removed and the incision is closed. The patient then continues to stay prone until the cement is completely hardened. Often, a patient finds the pain caused by bone compressing on a nerve is gone. Patients frequently can leave the office, leaving their pain behind.