As you get older, you’re more at risk for a problem known as osteoporosis. This condition makes you more prone to broken bones throughout your body, including your spine. Vertebral compression fractures are among the complications of osteoporosis, and getting them treated is the key to relieving your pain.
At Southern Pain Specialists, our team has the knowledge and tools to help you when you’re dealing with a vertebral compression fracture. One of the main ways to repair a compression fracture in your spine is a kyphoplasty. Dr. Kenneth Varley is our in-house pain management specialist who’s an expert in performing kyphoplasty surgery when you need it.
What is a compression fracture?
A compression fracture in your spine happens when the bony part of your spine, your vertebrae, collapses and cracks or breaks. This usually happens because of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens your bones.
As you age, your risk of osteoporosis increases exponentially, especially if you’re a woman who’s past menopause. Osteoporosis happens because your bones break down more quickly than they can regenerate, leading to brittle bones that are prone to breaking.
In severe cases of osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures may happen from something as simple as lifting something light or even sneezing. The fracture can lead to symptoms such as:
- Sudden pain
- Increased pain with standing
- Decreased mobility in your spine
- Deformity after time
- Loss of height
- Eventual disability
With a vertebral compression fracture, your pain may seem better when you’re lying down on your back. These fractures most often occur in the thoracic area of your spine — the upper and middle part of your back.
Although a compression fracture can seem devastating, there’s a state-of-the-art treatment that can help you recover.
Understanding a kyphoplasty
A kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that Dr. Varley uses when you have a compression fracture in your spine. It doesn’t involve a large incision, making it ideal for treatment and a quick recovery.
However, a kyphoplasty isn’t for everyone. Candidates for this procedure have decreased mobility from the compression fracture and also have back pain that doesn’t get better with other conservative treatments.
Dr. Varley also needs to make sure that your pain is definitely due to a compression fracture and not something else. He performs imaging studies, like an MRI, to verify that you do have a compression fracture that’s causing your pain.
If you are a good candidate for kyphoplasty, Dr. Varley does blood work and a detailed physical exam before your surgery to make sure you’re healthy enough for anesthesia and the procedure.
What to expect from kyphoplasty
During surgery, you lie on your stomach, which allows Dr. Varley to access the compression fracture directly through your back. It’s a minimally invasive surgery, but you’ll likely still need to have general anesthesia.
Once you’re asleep, Dr. Varley uses X-ray imaging to find the exact area he needs to address. He then inserts a special needle, known as a trocar, into your back at the fracture.
Dr. Varley uses imaging to verify the correct position of the trocar, making sure it’s at the fracture site to ensure the kyphoplasty is successful. Once he verifies the right position, a surgical balloon is placed at the fracture and inflated to restore the original height of your vertebrae.
The inflated balloon also allows Dr. Varley to then insert bone cement into the area to make sure the vertebra doesn’t fracture again. The cement sets quickly, and you’ll be moved to the recovery area after a bandage is placed.
After surgery, you’ll need to take it easy for a few days while the area heals. You shouldn’t lift anything heavy or do anything that puts excess strain on your back for a few weeks. Pain relief may be almost immediate after the procedure, or it may take a few days.