Osteoporosis or weakening of the bones is a common disease that affects 10 million Americans. This disease is especially common in post menopausal women. As a result of osteoporosis, 750,000 people per year suffer from vertebral compression fracture (VCF) or backbone fracture. VCF can also be caused by osteoporosis as well as trauma or metastatic tumors.

VCF can result in sudden onset of severe pain, deformity and loss of height due to the collapsing of the vertebral body. The patient will typically experience worsening pain while standing, walking, or coughing and improvement in pain while lying on the back. If severe, VCF can lead to bony instability, loss of height and curvature, and even neurological complications.

Once VCF is suspected, the physician will perform a thorough history, physical examination, and imaging studies including X ray, CT scan, MRI, or dual energy x ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) or bone densitometry. These imaging studies will assess the severity of fracture as well as determining if you are a candidate for an intervention.

If non-surgical treatment of bed rest, medications, and bracing is ineffective, minimally invasive surgical option should be considered. These minimally invasive surgical options include vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. These procedures are done through probes and are usually out patient procedures done in our clinic. Using live X ray guidance, a small probe is inserted into the collapsed vertebra and cement is inserted. Cement hardens within minutes, which stabilizes the fracture. By stabilizing the fracture, the chance of further fracture is reduced and most patients have rapid and significant pain relief, although no results are guaranteed.

The complications include infection, bleeding, worsening pain, neurologic complications and cement displacement. The complication rates for vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty are uncommon from 2% for osteoporotic fractures and up to 10% for malignancy related tumors.

Here is a video which explains the vertebroplasty procedure:

If you or a family member suffers from severe osteoporosis or has a vertebral compression fracture, please visit our Become a Patient page to schedule a consultation.