At Advanced Pain Consultants, we use a minimally invasive procedure called kyphoplasty to treat painful compression fractures of the spine. A compression fracture is a crack or break in one or more of the vertebral bones, which have become too weak to bear normal pressure. When one of the vertebral bones breaks or collapses, this can cause the spine to shorten and curve, and lead to a kyphotic (or “hunched-over”) posture. It can also pinch and damage nerves in the spinal cord, which can cause considerable pain.
The purpose of kyphoplasty is three-fold: to alleviate the pain, restore all or some of the vertebral body height that was lost due to the compression fracture, and stabilize the spine to prevent future problems. It is critical that this condition get treated, since people with spinal compression fractures have a higher risk of additional fractures occurring.
To accomplish these goals, Dr. Pasi performs kyphoplasty using special tools and materials to reshape the broken vertebral bones into their original form. This involves the use of an inflatable balloon, which is inserted in the fractured vertebra. The balloon is inflated, creating a space in the center of the vertebra that is then filled with acrylic cement to prevent further collapse. The cement, in effect, becomes part of the bone. The end result is the bone returns to its original height so there’s no longer any impinging of the nerve around the bone.
Patients who undergo kyphoplasty generally have one of the following conditions:
Each of the above conditions can lead to a weakened spine, which can in turn lead to a compression fracture. In general, candidates for kyphoplasty have been experiencing significant pain for at least six weeks. They may also have very limited mobility as a result of their fractures, which interferes with routine daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and walking.
A physical examination and diagnostic studies such as x-rays, an MRI and a nuclear medicine bone scan are often necessary to help determine whether or not an individual is a candidate for kyphoplasty. This is an important step, since many of the symptoms associated with veterbral compression fractures can be very similar to other medical conditions. Thus, it is necessary to exclude other potential explanations for back pain, such as disc herniation, failed back surgery syndrome and severe arthritis.
Dr. Pasi performs kyphoplasty either in Advanced Pain Consultants’ state-of-the-art surgical facilities or at local surgery center. The procedure is done under a local anesthetic (while the patient is awake) or under general anesthesia (while the patient is asleep).
To begin the procedure, Dr. Pasi inserts a needle into the bone of each fractured vertebra, using fluoroscopy (X-ray guidance) to position it precisely. Through the same needle, a balloon is inserted and inflated in small increments until the optimal heights are reached. The balloons are then deflated and removed. The cement is then injected into the spaces created by the balloons. The cement hardens within a few minutes. The needle is then removed, and the patient is sent to the recovery room.
Kyphoplasty takes about an hour for each fractured vertebra being treated. After the procedure is completed, patients must rest in bed for a few hours. Most patients return home the same day. Daily routines can resume one or two days after the procedure.
After surgery, some patients experience an immediate reduction in pain. Most people, though, report experiencing significant pain relief and improved mobility within 24 to 48 hours after kyphoplasty. Overall, the majority of patients are satisfied with their results, with many able to reduce their pain medications and return to the usual activities they were performing before the compression fracture(s) occurred.
If you’re experiencing pain from compression fractures in the spine and you live in the Raleigh area, call Advanced Pain Consultants at (919) 510-790 to schedule an examination with Dr. Pasi and learn more about kyphoplasty. Dr. Pasi has the same goal as you: to overcome your pain and help you GET BACK TO LIVING.