What is vertebral body replacement?

Vertebral body replacement is a type of surgery used to treat unstable fractures of the lumbar (lower) or thoracic (middle) regions of the spine. This type of surgery is highly invasive and involves replacing the damaged vertebra with one or more implants made of metal, ceramic, acrylic or carbon in order to improve alignment. This type of surgery usually is reserved for patients who have experienced severe spinal trauma or who have had a vertebra taken out to remove a spinal tumor.

Many patients are able to resume everyday activity after a year or more of healing from vertebral body replacement, though each patient’s recovery journey can vary. It is crucial to evaluate all your options before enduring open back surgery, so be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have. The information in the following article can help you get an overview of your surgical options, allowing you to make a confident decision about your spine care needs.

What to expect during a vertebral body replacement

During vertebral body replacement surgery, the entire damaged vertebra and the adjacent disc are replaced by an implant and a bone graft. The fractured bone is removed in order to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord as well as the nerve and you may be required to wear a brace for three to six months in order to allow the bone graft to fuse to the vertebrae.

Because of the highly invasive nature of vertebral body replacement, this traditional open spine surgery could lead to several post-surgical complications, including:

  • Vertebral collapse
  • Loss of vertebral height
  • Severe back pain
  • Limited range of motion
  • Abnormal spine curve
  • Increased spinal instability
  • Nerve damage

If you begin to feel pain a few weeks after back surgery, and it consistently stays the same or gets worse, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out if you have failed back surgery syndrome — a condition describing the unsuccessful results following traditional open spine surgery.

When vertebral body replacement should become an option

Vertebral body replacement should only be considered after careful and thorough consultation with your doctor. Like most spine surgeries, this procedure often only becomes an option after all conservative treatments have been exhausted, such as physical therapy, pain medications and chiropractic care.

Should surgery become necessary, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the minimally invasive procedures we perform. Our outpatient surgeries offer a safer and effective alternative and no lengthy recovery compared to traditional open back surgery.^ The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use a less than 1-inch, muscle-sparing incision in order to stabilize the spine and help patients get back to the activities they love. Since 2005, we have been able to help more than 75,000 patients find relief from their chronic neck and back conditions.

Reach out to Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.