Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure which is performed to treat vertebral compression fractures of the spine. Most commonly, these fractures occur in the thoracic or the middle portion of the spine. Vertebral fractures cause severe pain in the back, arms and legs. Conservative treatment methods such as bed rest, pain medications and support braces comparatively take a long time to relieve the pain. For this reason, the vertebroplasty procedure which involves injection of bone cement into the fractured vertebra is considered to ensure faster recovery.
Vertebroplasty can be a treatment of choice if you are suffering painful vertebral compression fracture caused by conditions such as osteoporosis, metastatic tumor, multiple myeloma, and vertebral hemangioma. The procedure cannot be performed if you have a bone infection, bleeding disorders or allergy to the medications used. This procedure is contraindicated if the fractured fragment or a tumor is in the spinal canal or if the compression fracture is stable and does not cause any pain.
During the procedure, you will be lying face down, on your stomach. Your skin on the back will be cleansed and prepped. A local anesthetic injection is given to the area where a small half –a –inch incision will be made to expose the fractured bone. Under fluoroscopic guidance, your doctor will insert two needles of large diameter into the vertebral body. Sometimes, a single needle may be used based on the vertebral level involved. Once the needles are confirmed to be in the accurate position, bone cement is injected under appropriate pressure. Then the needles are withdrawn after the vertebral body is filled completely and before the cement becomes hard. The skin incision is closed using steri-stips.
As with any surgery, some risks can be anticipated. General complications are common and include bleeding, infection, blood clots and anesthetic reactions. The specific complications following a thoracic vertebroplasty include leakage of the bone cement into surrounding soft tissues or veins, and damage to the spinal cord or spinal nerves leading to numbness or paralysis.