Kyphoplasty is a surgical procedure to treat vertebral compression fractures. It can reduce pain and increase mobility. It offers a minimally invasive alternative to other surgeries.

This article looks at what the procedure involves, why someone may need it, plus benefits, risks, complications, and recovery.

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A doctor may suggest kyphoplasty to a person with a vertebral compression fracture.

Kyphoplasty is a vertebral augmentation surgery to treat fractures in the vertebra. These fractures may occur because of conditions such as osteoporosis or trauma.

Vertebroplasty is a similar technique. Both procedures involve injecting acrylic bone cement into the fracture through a hole in the skin.

The difference between the two techniques is that kyphoplasty also attempts to address curvature of the spine to restore height. This involves inflating a small balloon in the vertebra to create space before injecting the bone cement. Some doctors refer to this procedure as balloon kyphoplasty.

According to an article in the Journal of Spine Surgery, surgeons performed around 19,420 kyphoplasty procedures across the United States in 2014.

The average cost of a kyphoplasty procedure between 2006–2014 was $15,295

A surgeon may perform kyphoplasty for a vertebral compression fracture (VCF). VCF’s occur when the bony block in the spine collapses, which may cause extreme pain, deformity, and loss of height.

The incidence of VCF’s increases with age and most result from low energy injuries in older people with osteoporosis. However, other possible causes of VCF’s include trauma from car accidents or sports injuries or tumors that have started in the spine or spread to the bones.

According to OrthoInfo from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), many people who have a VCF recover within 3 months without specific treatment to repair the fracture. Sometimes, a doctor will recommend that a person wears a brace to restrict movement, which helps the fracture to heal.

If a person has severe pain that does not respond to non-surgical treatment, then surgery is an option. A doctor will talk to the individual about the most suitable procedure for them. This will depend on the type of vertebral compression they have.

During the days before surgery, a doctor may recommend that a person avoids taking drugs that make it hard for blood to clot, such as aspirin and warfarin. On the day of surgery, a person will probably be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the procedure. A person can take any medication a doctor approves, along with sips of water.

A surgeon will perform kyphoplasty in a hospital or outpatient clinic. A person may have either local or general anesthetic. The surgical procedure is as follows:

  • A surgeon will insert a needle into the spine bone through the skin. They will then use X-ray images to guide them to the correct area.
  • They will then place a small device called a balloon tamp through the needle and into the fractured vertebra.
  • The surgeon will inflate the balloon tamp. This helps to restore the height of the vertebrae.
  • When the surgeon removes the balloon tamp, it leaves a cavity that is injected with acrylic bone cement to prevent it from collapsing again.

Most people will be able to go home from the hospital the same day. A person should not drive unless a medical professional approves it.

The AAOS suggest that following surgery, most people can go back to their normal activities of daily living with no restrictions. A person should check with their doctor or surgeon if there are any activities that they should avoid during the recovery period.

A person may feel some soreness in their back where the surgeon inserted the needle, but this will not usually last longer than a few days.

The risks and complications of kyphoplasty may include:

  • infection
  • increased back pain
  • bleeding
  • nerve damage
  • allergic reaction to the chemicals used with X-rays to help guide the surgeon
  • acrylic bone cement leaking out of position

A 2016 review indicates that although risks are rare, serious complications can occur, including spinal cord compression, nerve root compression, venous embolism, and pulmonary embolism, including cardiovascular collapse.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Kyphoplasty complication rates are at less than 2% for osteoporotic VCF’s, and up to 10% for malignant tumor-related VCF’s.

Osteoporotic vertebral fractures have associations with increased morbidity. Techniques such as kyphoplasty can provide pain relief and improve spinal support function.

People who have a kyphoplasty procedure may have a better quality of life afterward. They may require fewer pain relievers and be more mobile.

However, the effectiveness of kyphoplasty seems to be under debate in the medical community. A person should discuss the benefits and risks with their doctor.

Kyphoplasty may improve a person’s quality of life and mobility and reduce pain and the use of pain relief medication. A doctor may recommend kyphoplasty if non-surgical means do not work.

The effectiveness of kyphoplasty is under debate, and there is a risk of complications.

Someone who is considering having this procedure should discuss the benefits and risks with their doctor.