Vertebroplasty is a clinical procedure that is used to manage pain that arises from a fractured vertebral body. It is a minimally invasive procedure and in particularly beneficial in fractures due to osteoporosis and cancer. It helps to stabilize the spine, and helps prevent further injury and improves mobility.
Osteoporosis induced vertebral fractures are the most common reason for vertebroplasty. These fractures are extremely painful and can significantly limit the mobility of the patient. This type of fracture seen more often in women when compared to men. Vertebral fractures that occur due to bone tumors are another reason for vertebroplasty. These tumors are either primary tumors within the bone, though secondary tumors seem to be more of a reason for performing this procedure.
The procedure is not routinely offered if the fracture does not produce any symptoms, if the patient has an untreatable bleeding disorder or if the patient has an allergy to any of the vertebroplasty components such as bone cement.
Once consent is obtained, the patient is offered mild sedation along with local anaesthetic at the area of the procedure. The patient is laid down face down on the operating table. The procedure is performed under fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance.
A spinal needle is inserted through the skin and is used to anaesthetise the surface of the bone i.e. the periosteum. Once the needle reaches the vertebral body, a small amount of done is removed for analysis. This area is then injected with strong bone cement that fixes the vertebra and stabilises the spine.
Once this is concluded, the patient is advised bed rest for a couple of hours and is discharged home on painkillers. Patients need to continue the treatments they might be taking for the underlying health problem they have (i.e. osteoporosis or cancer).
Complications are rare, and can include fracture of the vertebra, compression of the nerve fibres, infection and bleeding. Sometimes the cement may not fix and can move and compress on the nerves. Puncturing the lining of the lung can cause a pneumothorax (air around the lung) which may need treating.
Vertebroplasty is a commonly performed procedure that helps stabilise the spine and reduce pain that occurs from damage to the vertebra.