Non-surgical treatment for spinal fractures
Each year about 750,000 spinal fractures occur in the United States. Most occur in women over the age of 60 due to osteoporosis. However, younger people may have a spinal fracture. People who received long-term treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and asthma using steroids or other drugs also may be prone to spinal fractures.
Conservative treatments including rest, medications to relieve pain, bracing and physical therapy may be used for compression fractures of the spine. When these methods don’t work, surgical methods may be considered. Traditional surgical treatment of spinal fractures can be difficult and pose potential risks.
Today interventional radiologists may have a minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment for spinal fractures. Vertebroplasty (pronounced ver-TEE-bro-plasty) may help reduce or eliminate the pain associated with spinal fractures. This treatment helps stabilize spinal factures caused by osteoporsis.
Special cement injected into spine
With vertebroplasty, a small needle is inserted through the skin into the area of the spine that has been broken. Doctors then inject a special bone cement directly into the bone. This procedure doesn’t require surgery. Doctors use special X-ray equipment to guide them to the exact place on the spine that needs to be stabilized. More than one area of the spine can be treated at the same time.
You may be given a local anesthetic to numb the area being treated or have a general anesthetic which puts you to sleep. Generally, the procedure takes about two hours and you can go home afterwards, although you need to have someone else drive. In some cases, your doctor may want you to stay in the hospital overnight as a precaution.
After the procedure, you should rest in bed for the first 24 hours. You can gradually increase your activities.
Many report pain relief
Many patients report that the pain associated with spinal factures is gone or they have significant improvement within 48 hours after having vertebroplasty. According to the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology, about two-thirds of the patients treated with vertebroplasty regain some of their mobility and are able to increase their activity levels. Most patients also report that they have less pain after the procedure.
Vertebroplasty isn’t for everyone. Those with chronic back pain or herniated disks can’t be treated with this procedure. Those with a recent fracture that causes moderate to severe back pain are considered to be the best candidates.
Risks and benefits
The benefits of vertebroplasty for people with compression fractures of the spine due to osteporosis may include strengthening or stabilizing the spine and reducing the pain associated with the fracture. Complications are relatively rare but may include some leakage of the bone cement into surrounding tissues, bleeding at the injection site, infection, numbness or tingling.
As with any treatment, you should discuss the benefits and the risks with your physicians. To learn more about vertebroplasty, call our Nurse Navigator at1 (866) SPINE 55.