Treatment Options for Spinal Compression Fractures
Minimally invasive surgical procedures can be used to treat spinal compression fractures. These procedures are utilized to reduce severe pain, stabilize the fracture itself, and restore lost height or shape of the broken vertebral body. These procedures are known as:
- Balloon kyphoplasty
- Vertebral body augmentation
A vertebral compression fracture is a type of spinal fracture that can be caused by osteoporosis. This is a metabolic disease that weakens bone density and increases the risk of fracture/s in the spine, wrist, and hip. Osteopenia and osteoporosis affect millions, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. If left untreated, it can progress without an individual knowing and painlessly until the bone/s fracture. A vertebral compression fracture is more frequent than hip fractures and can lead to extended disability.
Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive treatment done through the skin for painful vertebral compression fractures. It also helps with strengthening the surrounding vertebral bodies also at risk of fracturing. Orthopedic bone cement is injected into the fractured vertebral body.
How is it performed?
Under general anesthesia, a specialized needle for bone is slowly inserted through the soft tissues of the back towards the vertebral compression fracture. The surgeon sees the position of the needle at all times through a real-time x-ray. Once reached a small amount of orthopedic bone cement, called polymethylmethacrylate, is injected into the vertebral body. Polymethylmethacrylate is a medical-grade bone cement that’ss been used for years for various orthopedic procedures.
The cement can sometimes be combined with an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection along with a powder that has barium or tantalum. This allows it to be seen on the x-ray. The cement is a thick paste that hardens quickly. The fractured body is injected on the right and left sides, the midline of the back. After a few hours, the patient is up and moving. Most go home on the same day.
Balloon Kyphoplasty is another newer minimally invasive surgery for vertebral compression fractures that can be associated with osteoporosis. Kyphoplasty utilizes a balloon that expands the compressed bone to help restore lost vertebral height while creating a space where bone cement is injected. Kyphoplasty stabilizes fractures, restores lost vertebral height, and reduces deformities.
How it is performed?
Balloon kyphoplasty is performed under local or general anesthesia. Using real-time x-ray two small incisions are made, and a probe is inserted into the vertebral body space. The bone is drilled and balloon/s, called a bone tamp is a pump that is inserted on each side.
These balloons are inflated with contrast medium so the surgeon can see on the real-time x-ray until each balloon expands to the correct height, and then are taken out. The balloon is used to create a space for the bone cement and helps expand the compressed vertebral body bone. The cement binds and stabilizes the fracture. The cement provides:
- Hardens rapidly
- Restores height
- Relieves pain
Vertebral augmentation implant
A vertebral augmentation implant is different from vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. This minimally invasive procedure for middle and lower back spinal compression fractures utilizes a flexible loop spring style spinal implant. It is performed under local or general anesthesia. A real-time x-ray is used to visualize the spinal anatomy and guide the placement of the device. The implant is delivered through a small incision. Once the implant is in place, the bone cement is injected, and the implant is removed.
Potential benefits include:
- Reduction of new fractures above or below the existing fracture
- Improves the spine’s angle
- Reduced spinal deformity
- Reduces bone cement leakage
- Reduces the amount of bone cement
Benefits of all
Vertebral compression fractures and the limited abilities of traditional surgical options led to the refinement of these surgical systems. Each procedure provides options, as to how the treatment helps relieve pain, reduce and stabilize fractures, reduce spinal deformity, and stop the progressive worsening of untreated osteoporosis.
- Surgical time is minimal
- Local or general anesthesia is all that is needed
- Hospital stay is a day or only a few hours
- Patients can quickly return to normal activities
- No bracing required
A spine surgeon will explain the purpose and aims of the recommended procedure, including the benefits and risks to help make an informed decision.
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