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What is kyphoplasty?

Kyphoplasty is a procedure used to treat fractures or breaks in the vertebrae. The vertebrae are the bones in your back that are stacked on top of each other to make your spine. Your spine supports your weight, allows you to move, and protects your spinal cord and the nerves.

Kyphoplasty is often discussed along with another procedure called vertebroplasty. First the healthcare provider inflates 1 or 2 small balloon-like devices into the broken vertebra to partly restore the height of the vertebra. The balloon(s) can then be removed or left in place in the vertebra. A cement-like material is injected into the cavity created by the balloon(s). With vertebroplasty, there are no balloons. The healthcare provider just injects a cement-like material into the fractured vertebra to make it more stable.

Why might I need kyphoplasty?

You may need a kyphoplasty if you have certain types of fractures, or broken areas, in the vertebrae. In most cases, thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) is the cause of these fractures. The vertebrae can also be broken or fractured in accidents or from cancer. The fractures cause the bones to collapse or become compressed. The fractures can cause pain, nerve damage, or lead to a hunched-over posture (kyphosis).

Kyphoplasty may make the bone a little taller to help make up for the height it loses when it's compressed. The procedure often also relieves pain.

Usually, healthcare providers perform kyphoplasty only after other treatments have failed. These may include wearing a back brace, limiting activity, or taking pain medicine for 6 to 12 weeks. Most vertebral fractures do not need to be treated with kyphoplasty.

What are the risks of kyphoplasty?

The risks involved in kyphoplasty include:

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Increased back pain

  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness because of nerve damage

  • Allergic reactions to the dyes used during the X-rays that help the healthcare provider put the balloon(s) in the right place

  • Cement leaking out of position and compressing vital structures, such as the spinal cord

The amount of radiation used during the X-ray procedures is considered minimal, and the risks related to radiation exposure are very low. But if you are pregnant or suspect that you might be, tell your healthcare provider.

There may be other risks, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

How do I get ready for kyphoplasty?

Your healthcare provider will meet with you before the procedure to check your health and do a physical exam. You will also have some tests done, such as X-rays, an MRI scan (which helps your healthcare provider see the fractures), and blood tests.

Talk with your healthcare provider about any medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements you're taking and if you’re allergic to any medicines or the dyes used during certain X-rays.

You may need to stop taking aspirin or blood thinners before kyphoplasty. You may be told to not eat or drink anything for several hours before the surgery. Bring someone with you to the procedure to drive you home afterward.

Talk with your healthcare provider about what you need to do before your procedure.

What happens during kyphoplasty?

An anesthesia provider will put an IV line into a vein in your hand or arm to give you medicine. You will either be given medicine to relax you and keep you from feeling pain or to make you go to sleep before the surgery. You will lie face down on an operating table during the surgery. X-ray equipment will be nearby.

The healthcare provider will put a needle through your skin and back muscles and into the spinal bone (the vertebra). The balloon(s) will be put in through the needle and inflated. This opens a space for the thick, paste-like cement and may help the bone regain its normal size and shape. Next, your surgeon will inject the cement mixture into the bone cavity. While this is done, X-ray images are checked to help ensure that the cement goes into the right place. The surgeon will then remove the needle. You may not need stitches in your back.

The entire procedure will probably take less than an hour. If the surgeon needs to treat more than one vertebra, the procedure may take longer. You will spend time in a recovery room after the surgery. You will probably lie flat on your back for about an hour while the cement hardens. You may be able to go home the same day, but your healthcare provider might want you to stay overnight.

Talk with your healthcare provider about what to expect during your kyphoplasty.

What happens after kyphoplasty?

You may be able to start walking about an hour after the procedure. It’s normal to feel some soreness where the needle was put into your back. This might last a few days. You may quickly notice that you have less pain in your back than you did before the surgery. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether you should avoid any activities after the procedure.

You may experience pain relief almost immediately after the procedure, but for some people, it takes up to 72 hours. Your healthcare provider may provide you with pain relievers to help ease the discomfort.

If the fracture was caused by osteoporosis, your healthcare provider may suggest that you take certain vitamins, minerals, or medicines to help strengthen your bones and help prevent more fractures in your spine.

Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions about what you should do after your kyphoplasty. Be sure you understand the instructions and how to use any prescription medicines you’re given. Also know how to reach the healthcare provider if you have any problems or questions. Ask about scheduling a follow-up appointment.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure, make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason you are having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • What the possible side effects or complications are

  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how you will get the results

  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems

  • How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2024
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