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What is Percutaneous Vertebroplasty?

Percutaneous vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to treat fractures of the spinal vertebral bones. During this procedure, your doctor inserts a needle through your skin into the fractured vertebra and injects bone cement. The cement hardens and provides strength and stability to the vertebra.

Who Needs a Percutaneous Vertebroplasty?

Percutaneous vertebroplasty is mainly used to treat pain and instability from vertebral body fractures due to osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weakening of the bones and increased susceptibility to fractures, typically in the hip and spine. The elderly and post-menopausal women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Vertebroplasty is also used to treat vertebral fractures due to spinal tumors.

How do Vertebral Fractures Occur?

The mid to lower back area of the spine is mainly involved in weight-bearing, making these regions of the spine more prone to collapse when bones weaken. This can lead to spinal (vertebral) compression fractures. Compression fractures are broken spinal bones that cause a part of or a complete vertebra to collapse. Many of these vertebral compression fractures occur by minimal trauma or no trauma at all. They can even occur during simple activities such as bending or twisting.

What are the Alternatives to Percutaneous Vertebroplasty?

Until recently, treatment of compression fractures included bed rest, bracing, pain medications or invasive spinal surgery. Percutaneous vertebroplasty is a new minimally invasive procedure to treat these type of fractures. Kyphoplasty is another minimally invasive procedure to treat compression fractures. 

How is a Percutaneous Vertebroplasty Performed?

Percutaneous vertebroplasty is performed under general or local anesthesia. You will lie face down on the operating table. Using live X-ray imaging, your doctor will insert a large needle through the skin into the fractured vertebra and inject bone cement into it. The needle is then withdrawn before the cement hardens. The cement quickly hardens and provides strength and stability to the vertebra.

What is the Post-procedure Care for a Percutaneous Vertebroplasty?

Following percutaneous vertebroplasty, you will most likely be discharged on the same day of the procedure. No bracing is required after the treatment procedure. You will be advised to stay in bed for the first 24 hours, after which you can start walking and quickly return to your normal daily activities. If there is a pain in the area where the needle was inserted, an ice pack can be applied. Driving should be avoided until the surgeon feels it is okay. Heavy lifting and any strenuous activities should also be avoided for at least 6 weeks after the surgery.

What are the Possible Risks and Complications Associated with a Percutaneous Vertebroplasty?

Percutaneous vertebroplasty is generally safe. However, as with any surgery, some risks can occur. Complications of surgery may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Leakage of bone cement into the surrounding area 

After percutaneous vertebroplasty, you should experience considerable relief from pain and improved quality of life.

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