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Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty: What Are They?

Elderly patients suffering from bone density loss due to osteoporosis may experience a collapsed vertebra. The condition can cause extreme discomfort manifested as pain, numbness, and stiffness. After diagnosis, a patient’s doctor may recommend kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.

Perhaps you have heard of these two procedures but don’t know what they are. If so, you are not alone. Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty aren’t hot topics for dinnertime conversation. But no worries, this post will explain both procedures.

The explanations come from pain relief clinic Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX. As a practice that specializes in identifying and treating the root causes of pain, Lone Star and its staff of pain doctors have extensive experience in kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.

Kyphoplasty Creates Space

Though the two procedures can be used separately, they are more often recommended together. They are appropriate for a number of different spinal conditions above and beyond compressed vertebrae. But for the purposes of this post, the compressed vertebrae provide a perfect illustration for both procedures.

In order to counteract the problems caused by a compressed vertebra, doctors first need to create space in the affected bone or bones, space that was eliminated as a result of the compression. This is what kyphoplasty does.

Kyphoplasty is a procedure that involves inserting a small balloon into the affected bone. The balloon is then inflated to create space. All on its own, kyphoplasty can offer pain relief to patients suffering from compressed vertebrae. But it is not a long-term solution.

Vertebroplasty Fills in the Space

If a doctor performed kyphoplasty and left it at that, the inflated balloon would eventually stop doing its job. The vertebrae would again collapse, and the patient would be right back where they started. To avoid that, pain doctors recommend vertebroplasty.

Vertebroplasty is designed to fill in the space created by the kyphoplasty procedure with a specialized cement. The cement is injected directly into the space created by the balloon where it cures and hardens.

This cement provides permanent support for the affected vertebrae so that future compression does not occur again. It also adds extra structural support to make up for bone density loss.

No Known Safety Concerns

Combining kyphoplasty with vertebroplasty can help older patients enjoy a better quality of life by strengthening the spine and improving posture. At this time, there are no known safety issues. The procedures are FDA-approved and are generally reserved for older people.

That being said, medical science does not yet know if there are any long-term effects associated with utilizing bone cement. For that reason, kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are not normally recommended for young people.

Not the Right Solution for Every Condition

Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are appropriate for treating compressed vertebrae, recent bone fractures, and loss of bone density due to cancer. But both procedures are reactive rather than proactive. In other words, they are not used to prevent problems. They are recommended as a way to treat existing problems.

The two procedures also are not appropriate for conditions like scoliosis, herniated discs, and arthritis. These are all conditions that do not involve bone density loss or fractures. Therefore, they are treated with other means.

If you or a loved one is an older person showing symptoms of bone density loss, you may reach a point at which some of the vertebrae in your spine compress or fracture. In such a case, your doctor might recommend kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.

Both procedures can be performed by an experienced pain medicine specialist. Both are deemed safe and are highly effective for many patients. If the procedures are recommended, you should have nothing to worry about.