Health Information

Kyphoplasty

(Balloon Vertebroplasty)

Procedure overview

Kyphoplasty is often discussed along with vertebroplasty, another procedure. These are used to treat fractures in the bones of the spine. These bones are vertebrae.

During a vertebroplasty, the doctor injects a cementlike material into the bone to make it more stable. During a kyphoplasty, the doctor first inflates a balloonlike device in the bone to make space. The space is then filled with cement.

Anatomy of the spinal column
Click image to enlarge

Reasons for the procedure

You may need a kyphoplasty if you have certain types of fractures, or broken areas, in your spine. In most cases, osteoporosis — or thinning of the bones — plays a role in these fractures. The fractures cause the bones to collapse or become compressed. The fractures can cause pain or lead you to develop a hunched-over posture.

The procedure may also be done if cancer has damaged a vertebra. A kyphoplasty may make the bone a little taller to help make up for the height it loses when it's compressed. The procedure may also relieve pain.

Usually doctors perform this procedure only after trying other treatments. These may include your wearing a back brace or taking pain medicine.

Risks of the procedure

The risks involved in a kyphoplasty include:

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Increased back pain

  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness because of nerve damage

  • Allergic reactions to chemicals used during X-rays that help the doctor put the balloon in the right place

  • Cement leaking out of position

The amount of radiation used during an X-ray procedure is considered minimal; therefore, the risk for radiation exposure is low. But if you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your health care provider.

There may be other risks, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the procedure.

Before the procedure

Your doctor will meet with you before the procedure to check your health. You will also have testing done. This may include X-rays or an MRI scan to help your doctor see the fractures. You may also have blood tests and a physical examination.

Talk with your doctor about any medications or supplements you're taking and if you have an allergy to any medications or to contrast agents, the dyes used during certain X-rays.

You may need to stop taking aspirin or other medicines that thin your blood before the procedure. You may be told to avoid eating or drinking anything for several hours before the surgery. Bring someone with you to the procedure to drive you home afterward.

An anesthesia provider will put an IV line into a vein 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 before the surgery. You will lie face down on an operating table during the surgery. X-ray equipment will be nearby.

During the procedure

The doctor will insert a needle through your skin and back muscles and into the bone, then inflate the balloon. This opens a space for the pastelike cement and may help the bone regain its normal shape. Next, your doctor will inject the cement mixture into the bone while checking X-ray images to help ensure that the cement goes into the right place. The doctor 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 doctor needs to treat more than 1 vertebra, the procedure may take longer. You will spend time in a recovery room after the surgery. You may be able to go home the same day, but your doctor may want you to stay overnight.

After the procedure

You may be able to start walking an hour after the procedure. You may feel some soreness where the needle was put into your back; this may last a few days. You may quickly notice that you have less pain in your back than you did before the surgery. Talk with your doctor about whether you should avoid any activities after the procedure.

Your doctor may suggest that you take certain vitamins, minerals, and medications to help strengthen your bones and prevent more fractures in your spine.