Balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that relieves the back pain caused by a vertebral compression fracture. It stabilizes the fracture and restores the vertebral body height.
Vertebral compression fractures occur as a result of trauma such as a fall, motor vehicle accident or bone diseases such as osteoporosis, and certain cancers. These fractures occur most commonly in the middle to lower back region because of the weight bearing load on the spine that causes the vertebrae to become crushed. There may be severe pain or sometimes no symptoms at all. Compression fractures can also result in a progressive spinal deformity and when multiple fractures occur, it causes a condition known as kyphosis or dowager’s hump.
Your surgeon will evaluate the cause for back pain by a detailed medical history and physical examination. Other diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI scan, CT scan and bone density test may be ordered to confirm a vertebral fracture.
Balloon kyphoplasty surgery is recommended in patients having severe pain and deformity that is not relieved by conservative treatment methods such as rest, pain medications, and bracing.
Balloon kyphoplasty is an elective procedure and is performed with the patient lying in a face down position on the operating table. Your surgeon will make a small incision in the back through which a narrow tube is placed. With the help of fluoroscopy as guidance, the tube is advanced into the fractured area of the vertebra. Then a special balloon is inserted through this tube and carefully inflated. This elevates the fracture and restores the vertebra to its pre-fracture height. The balloon is then deflated and removed leaving behind an open cavity. Then your surgeon fills the cavity with a material called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) with the help of specially designed instruments. The material hardens in few minutes and stabilizes the bone.
Most patients experience immediate pain relief after balloon kyphoplasty surgery. You will be allowed to get up and walk once you regain consciousness. Pain medications will be prescribed to make you comfortable during the first few days. You can return to normal activities but lifting heavy weights and strenuous activities should be avoided for 6 weeks. After 2 weeks, your doctor will prescribe a postoperative rehabilitation program to strengthen the spinal muscles.
As with any major surgery there may be certain potential risks and complications involved with balloon kyphoplasty surgery which include:
- Injury to the nerves or spinal cord caused from placement of malpositioned instruments in the back
- Spinal cord compression or nerve injury caused from leakage of PMMA material into the veins or epidural space
- Deep or superficial wound infection
Apart from stabilization of vertebral fracture and reduction of back pain, balloon kyphoplasty procedure helps to restore vertebral height and thus reduces the kyphosis which may develop in most patients with spinal fracture. Other advantages of the procedure include:
- Improved quality of life
- Improved mobility
- Lesser complications
- Reduced hospital stay