Vertebroplasty is the procedure used in the treatment of pain resulting from osteoporotic compression fractures. Women are more vulnerable to bone loss after menopause. More than 25% of women over the age of 65 years will have vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis. Older people with compression fractures will become less mobile and this will accelerate the bone loss process. The functional ability will further be affected by the use of high dose pain medications especially narcotics.
This procedure is usually performed on patients who are too elderly to handle spinal surgery or with weak bones that cannot withstand spinal repair. This procedure may also benefit patients with vertebral damage that might be as a result of malignant tumor. In some cases, though rare, this procedure is used on younger patients of osteoporosis caused by a metabolic disorder or by a long-term steroid treatment.
In most cases, vertebroplasty is commonly recommended after simple treatments such as back braces, pain medication and bed rest have been found to be ineffective in the management of the condition or medication has started causing other problems such as stomach ulcers.
Vertebroplasty was first performed in 1984 in the University of Virginia by Jansen and Dion. In this procedure a collapsed vertebra is assessed to find out if it meets the criteria of the procedure. The site is accessed using a trocar through which the liquid acrylic cement is injected into the space and allowed to correct the collapse through expansion. This process usually results in near dramatic significant improvement of the symptoms and alleviation of the pain perceived by the patient. In most cases, this relief is not achieved through any other means. The stability of the spinal axial will be achieved and the function is restored rapidly.
The actual procedure used in Vertebroplasty will require the guidance of fluoroscopy and in some cases CT scans are also used. This procedure has been found to have positive results when used for the lumbar spine or the thoracic axial spine level. In cases where the patient is suffering from osteoporosis, this procedure is performed alongside post-procedure stabilizing corset and medical treatment.
This procedure, though effective, has also been found to have complications which are caused by the complex nature of the technique. The complications may include worsening of the perceived pain due to inadequate liquid acrylic cement distribution. This will result in poor injectate localization and other problems. Medical practitioners handling this procedure should be cautious especially when handling the thoracic level. Other complications include bleeding, allergy to the contrast materials used and infections.
Sedation may be used and in some cases analgesics are included in the procedure. This is a minimally invasive guided procedure which is used in the strengthening of broken vertebra that has been weakened by osteoporosis, and in rare cases by cancer. This procedure will improve functional abilities and allow the patient to return to their normal activity level and stop the vertebral collapse. Most of the procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and will also alleviate the pain caused by the compression fracture.