Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive surgery used to stabilize the spine and relieve pain in patients who have fractured a vertebra, often as a result of osteoporosis.
This relatively new procedure was developed in France in 1986 and has been available in the United States since 1991. While it has not escaped the controversy in the medical community that usually accompanies new treatment methods, many neurologists have begun to offer this procedure to their patients.
If you’ve been recommended for a vertebroplasty procedure, you should thoroughly research what is involved in this type of surgery so you can be confident about your decision whether or not to move forward with this treatment.
Understanding the methods of vertebroplasty
A vertebroplasty procedure includes the following steps:
- The back is numbed with a local anesthetic and the patient is given a light sedative
- A small incision is made, and a hollow needle is guided through spinal muscles by a fluoroscope into the fractured vertebra
- Orthopedic cement (an acrylic paste) is injected through the needle into the fractured vertebra
- The patient lies flat for at least two hours while the cement hardens
- Most patients experience significant pain relief within a few days of vertebroplasty
A Mayo Clinic study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2009 found that a placebo procedure was just as effective as vertebroplasty for pain relief. Prior to that study, which examined the effects for 131 patients, vertebroplasty had received favorable reviews. This simply means that because the procedure is new and still being refined, not enough is known about it to draw a definitive conclusion about its effectiveness as a treatment for fractured vertebrae.
Other options for spine surgery
Depending on the severity of the fractured vertebra, symptoms may resemble those produced by other spine conditions, such as spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease or a herniated disc. If you have been diagnosed with one of these spine conditions, Laser Spine Institute can help you find an alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery.
Laser Spine Institute offers alternatives to traditional back surgery, using minimally invasive techniques to perform procedures on an outpatient basis. Contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.