The thick portion of bone at the front of each vertebra in the spine is referred to as the “vertebral body.” A vertebral compression fracture (VCF) occurs when the vertebral body fractures and collapses.
Most VCFs are caused by osteoporosis. Because osteoporosis usually progresses without obvious symptoms, a person may not know that they have the disease until a fracture occurs. Compression fractures can also occur as a result of certain types of cancer or tumors.
Multiple compression fractures cause your spine to shorten and angle forward, resulting in a stooped posture. This forward curvature of the spine (kyphosis) makes it difficult to walk, reach for things, or conduct activities of daily living. Patients can experience pain ranging from sudden and severe, to persistent and dull.
Chronic back pain, loss of height, diminished appetite and difficulty sleeping have been associated with this disorder. Over time, patients with multiple VCFs or kyphosis may be at an increased risk of suffering from serious, or even fatal, pulmonary complications.
In cases of multiple fractures, kyphosis can become more pronounced, painful and debilitating. Forward curvature of the spine has a “compression effect” on your organs, making it progressively difficult to breathe, walk, eat or sleep properly.
In our northern Utah Spine Care Center, our spine doctors have a minimally-invasive solution to VCF called “balloon kyphoplasty.”
Balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive treatment for VCF. An Ogden Clinic spine doctor will use balloons to gently elevate the bone fragments in an attempt to return them to the correct position. Before the procedure, you will have diagnostic studies, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine the exact location of the fracture.
Balloon kyphoplasty can be done under local or general anesthesia — your doctor will decide which option is appropriate for you. Typically, the procedure takes less than one hour per fracture treated and may require an overnight hospital stay.
Using a hollow instrument, the spine specialist creates a small pathway into the fractured bone. A small, orthopedic balloon is guided through the instrument into the vertebra. The incision site is approximately 1cm in length. The cavity is filled with a unique cement that supports the surrounding bone to prevent further collapse.
Once the vertebra is in the correct position, the balloon is deflated and removed, causing a cavity within the vertebral body. The cement forms an internal cast that holds the vertebrae in place. Typically, balloon kyphoplasty is performed on both sides of the vertebral body.
Balloon kyphoplasty has been shown to restore vertebral body height and correct spinal deformity with a low complication rate. Studies also report:
In most cases, Medicare provides coverage for balloon kyphoplasty. Other insurance plans may also cover the procedure. It is important to check with your insurance and doctor prior to having the procedure.