Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure for stabilizing compression fractures in the spine. Bone cement is injected into back bones (vertebrae) that have cracked or broken, often because of osteoporosis. The cement hardens, stabilizing the fractures and supporting your spine. Vertebroplasty can greatly reduce pain and allow you to return to normal activity.

About

Vertebroplasty is used to treat compression fractures in the spine. A compression fracture occurs when pressure on a vertebra causes it to break or crack. Compression fractures are often extremely painful, and can cause abnormal spine curvature that leads to other serious health problems.

A number of studies have shown the benefits of vertebroplasty for people with severe disabling pain caused by a compression fracture. A Mayo Clinic study found that vertebroplasty can relieve pain, increase mobility and reduce the use of pain medication. Mayo researchers are participating in further, more comprehensive studies of vertebroplasty.

Mayo Clinic specialists may recommend vertebroplasty if:

  • Your pain is severe and the result of a compression fracture
  • Other, more conservative treatments haven't relieved your pain
  • Your compression fracture is less than six months old, and imaging tests (X-rays, MRI and bone scan) can pinpoint the location and age of the compression fracture
  • Your bones are not so weakened (porous) that your ribs might break as a result of lying facedown during the procedure

Most people can be treated as outpatients and return home the same day. During vertebroplasty you are awake but sedated, and lie on your stomach. Your back is numbed by a local anesthetic and a small incision is made. Guided by X-ray cameras, your doctor injects bone cement into the damaged vertebra with a needle. Vertebroplasty usually takes one hour for each vertebra that is treated. You will need to lie flat on your back for two hours afterward while the cement hardens.

Vertebroplasty has several benefits:

  • Return to normal activity. Many people with compression fractures are unable to do everyday tasks because of the pain. Vertebroplasty stabilizes the fracture, allowing most people to resume previous levels of activity within a few days.
  • Reduced pain medication. Vertebroplasty reduces and sometimes eliminates the need for pain medication.
  • Prevention of further fractures. The cement fills the spaces in bone weakened by osteoporosis. The treated bone is less likely to crack or fracture again.

As with any surgery, vertebroplasty has risks. These may include cement leakage, infection and spinal cord injury.

Kyphoplasty

Kyphoplasty is similar to vertebroplasty, but uses special balloons to create spaces in the spine that are then filled with the bone cement. Kyphoplasty can correct spinal deformity and restore lost height. The procedure is most successful when used on compression fractures that occurred within the previous three months.

Follow-up care

Your Mayo Clinic treatment team includes rehabilitation specialists who help you regain strength and resume normal activities after vertebroplasty. Mayo specialists can also help manage osteoporosis or other conditions that caused your bone damage.

  • Experience. Each year, Mayo Clinic specialists perform hundreds of vertebroplasties. Mayo was one of the first centers in the U.S. to offer vertebroplasty.
  • Cutting-edge medicine. Mayo Clinic specialists use the latest imaging technology to pinpoint the source of back pain. During vertebroplasty Mayo specialists use sophisticated image guidance and minimally invasive techniques that speed your recovery.
  • Team approach. Treating spinal compression fractures takes cooperation by specialists in radiology (neuroradiologists), neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery and endocrinology. Mayo specialists work together so that you get the expertise you need to solve your problem.
  • Time for you. Your Mayo Clinic doctor will take time to discuss options and answer your questions about vertebroplasty.
  • New ideas. Mayo Clinic researchers are studying improved materials and techniques for treating compression fractures in the spine. You have access to the expertise of Mayo's clinician-researchers.

Similar to vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty may be used on patients with compression fractures in the spine. Kyphoplasty offers the potential to restore bone height in the vertebra and reverse deformity of the spine. Mayo Clinic offers both treatments, allowing specialists to choose the correct treatment for each patient.

As in vertebroplasty, a patient undergoing kyphoplasty lies face down. The physician advances a thin tube into the fractured vertebra from an incision in the back. Through the tube, the physician drills a small hole through the hard, outer part of the bone and into its softer center. This provides a pathway for the physician to insert a special balloon into the interior of the vertebra, which is then inflated. This pushes apart the caps, or end plates, of the fractured vertebra, and restores the vertebra to its original shape as much as possible. The balloon is then deflated and removed, leaving a cavity that the physician fills with bone cement.

Either local anesthesia or general anesthesia may be used in these procedures.

Kyphoplasty is most successful in restoring bone height and correcting deformity if done on relatively recent compression fractures — those caught within two to three months. The physician will decide which treatment is appropriate.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for orthopedics and for rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report.

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty treatment is performed by spine specialists in radiology and neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Specialists from endocrinology are also available to treat osteoporosis.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty treatment is performed by spine specialists in radiology and neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Specialists from endocrinology are also available to treat osteoporosis.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty treatment is performed by spine specialists in radiology at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Specialists from endocrinology are also available to treat osteoporosis.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo doctors are conducting clinical trials of an alternative material for stabilizing compression fractures. Mayo researchers are also working to classify the types and age of fractures that are best treated by vertebroplasty as well as studying long-term results of the procedure. Scientists in the Biomechanics and Motion Analysis Laboratories are active in a number of areas of spine research.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo authors on vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Feb. 24, 2011