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Percutaneous Vertebroplasty (“percutaneous” means ‘through the skin’) is a minimally invasive procedure designed to relieve back pain caused by osteoporotic compression fractures of the thoracic (mid-back) and lumbar (low-back) spine that have failed to normally heal. By injecting bone cement into the compressed vertebra, the fracture is stabilized, significantly improving or alleviating back pain. Vertebroplasty also prevents further vertebral collapse, which is associated with height loss and spine curvature commonly seen with osteoporosis. With non-surgical therapies like vertebroplasty, you will experience less pain and risk, and will return quickly to previous activity levels.

The fractures are typically caused by decreased bone density also known as osteoporosis, but occasionally tumors arising from the spread of breast cancer, lung cancer, or non-cancerous tumors of bone such as hemangiomas, etc. can be treated to reduce the pain. The procedure is not used to treat ruptured/herniated discs or other types of degenerative spine disease.

Procedure preparation

A technologist or nurse will contact you 24-48 hours prior to your appointment to review medications you are currently taking, especially pain medications and blood thinners, discuss known allergies and your medical history, as well as answer your questions.

Contact your doctor before you stop taking any medication.

Please bring previous imaging study results (MRI, CT, x-rays) such as films, reports, or CD-ROMs, if available.

You will need a driver for your appointment. If you are unable to drive or arrange transportation, call us for assistance.

Please notify a member of our staff if you are nursing or if there is a chance you may be pregnant.

Patients meet with the radiologist prior to the day of the procedure for a consultation. The procedure will be discussed in detail at this time. As with any medical procedure, patients are encouraged to ask questions.

What to expect during the procedure

Vertebroplasty is an advanced pain management procedure that is performed in a special suite where we are able to offer I.V. sedation and monitoring by a nurse. The procedure will take approximately 1 hour.

You will lie on your stomach on a cushioned table. The radiologist will numb a small area of skin using a local anesthetic, which will sting for several seconds.

Using x-ray-guidance (fluoroscope attached to a T.V. monitor), the radiologist will insert a specialized needle through the skin into the damaged vertebra.

The bone cement, which has the consistency of toothpaste, will be injected through the needle into the bone.

The material will begin to harden over 10-20 minutes, stabilizing the fractured vertebra.

It is possible to treat more than one fractured vertebra at a time, if necessary.

Throughout the procedure, the physician, nurse or technologist will monitor your condition and comfort level closely.

What to expect after the procedure

You will be asked to stay at our hospital for a period of time, depending on the number of fractures that are treated.

We will provide you with activity and physician rehabilitation guidelines.

Most patients experience marked pain relief within 24 to 72 hours, and may resume activities soon after the procedure.