Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for treating a vertebral compression fracture, which is a collapsed or fractured vertebra in the spine. Most often, these fractures are a result of osteoporosis, a disease in which bones lose calcium and become porous and fragile, putting them at an increased risk of fracture. When there is too much pressure on a weakened vertebra, the vertebra may collapse, and the bone tissue on the inside is crushed or compressed. The result is chronic and severe pain as well as other potential health problems.

Kyphoplasty is designed to stop the pain caused by the bone fracture, to stabilize the bone, and to restore some or all of the lost vertebral body height due to the compression fracture.

What happens during kyphoplasty?

Kyphoplasty normally is performed on an outpatient basis under local or general anesthesia, although some patients may have an overnight stay in the hospital.

During the procedure, an orthopaedic surgeon makes a very small incision through the back and inserts a narrow tube. Using fluoroscopy, or special X-ray images, the doctor guides the tube into the fractured area and creates a path for the surgical instruments.

Next, an inflatable bone tamp, which is similar to a balloon, is inserted through the tube and into the vertebrae. Once in position, the tamp is inflated. As it inflates, it elevates the fracture, returning the collapsed vertebrae pieces to a more normal position. The inflated tamp also compacts the soft inner bone, creating a cavity inside the vertebrae.

The tamp is then removed, and the surgeon uses specially designed instruments to fill the newly formed cavity with bone cement. The material quickly hardens in 10-15 minutes, stabilizing the bone.

The tube is then removed from the patient’s back, and the incision is closed, often only with a single stitch.

What happens after kyphoplasty?

Many patients experience pain relief immediately after kyphoplasty, although it may take a few days for some patients. Patients usually are able to return to their normal activities immediately, although strenuous exercise and heavy lifting must be avoided for at least six weeks.