Vertebroplasty FAQs from a Top Colorado Pain Center

What is Vertebroplasty?

This is a technique where cement mixture that is medical grade is inserted by injection into a vertebra that is fractured. The vertebrae are the bones making up the spinal column. When they are fractured, a patient may have considerable backpain as well as a loss of movement. When vertebroplasty is effective, the injection steadies thvertebral compression fracturee vertebra and allows you to return to activity normally after a recovery period with immense pain relief.

Reasons for the Procedure

The main reason a patient needs a vertebroplasty is treatment of a fractured vertebra in the spine that’s causing reduced function and pain. Not all people with fractured vertebrae are candidates for a vertebroplasty, however.  Active infection makes the procedure not indicated, or a fracture that involves an opening into the spinal canal makes it a bad idea.

These are reasons why your Colorado pain management physician may consider a vertebroplasty for fractured vertebra: traditional methods of treating a fractured vertebra fail; patient is suffering from severe prolonged pain; and the fractured vertebra is leading to serious complications

Risks of the procedure

The vertebroplasty procedure is tolerated-well, with a low risk of side effects. The problem rate is about 1 to 3 percent, and most of these are minor. The risks factors linked with a vertebroplasty include potential infection, bleeding, anesthesia complication and very rarely – nerve injury or paralysis.

Some patients may continue to experience muscle spasms for weeks after the procedure. These invariably go away over time.

Before the Procedure

MRI showing an acute vertebral compression fracture
MRI showing an acute vertebral compression fracture

Prior to your procedure, your Boulder pain management doctor will obtain x-rays, take a comprehensive medical history, and do a physical exam to define the precise location and exact nature of your vertebra- pain. Your doctor will likely also use CT scanning or MRI scans to see your spine in larger aspect and help rule out other problems of the spine. The MRI can delineate if the fracture is old or new. If the fracture is so old that it’s no longer trying to heal, the procedure is not indicated.

Be certain to tell your physician about all over-the-counter and prescription drugs and any herbal enhancements you take. Tell your physician if you have any bleeding disorders or if you are taking any blood-thinning drugs, or aspirin. Based on your entire medical condition, your physician may give you other detailed preparation instructions.

During the procedure

These are the typical steps in a vertebroplasty procedure:  this procedure takes place in an interventional or suite; dependent on your needs, the physician will give you sedation to help you relax and keep you calm during the process; if you are in pain that is severe, general anesthesia may be needed.

The CO pain physician will use a continuous X-ray to guide the needle into your vertebral body to perform the procedure. The physician insures the tip of the needle ends up situated in the middle of the fracture region.

The doctor will then slowly inject the cement mixture into the vertebra.  Dependent on how the cement entered the vertebra, a 2nd injection may be needed to totally fill it. The cement takes about 20-30 minutes to fully harden.vertebroplasty cartoon

After the procedure, you will be monitored for an hour or two. Most people are able to go home at that point.

After the Procedure

Once the process is over and the cement has hardened, you will still need to stay in an observation room for an added one to two hours. This will let the physician make certain that the procedure was successful. You will then likely be able to stand and walk with little or no pain.

You may experience pain relief nearly directly after the procedure, but for some people it takes up to 72 hours. Your doctor may arrange for you with over-the-counter pain relievers to help ease the discomfort.

The vertebroplasty procedure is successful right away in 90% of individuals. Colorado Clinic offers vertebroplasty procedures for those in pain due to spinal compression fractures. Board Certified pain management doctors in Boulder, Greeley and Loveland offer vertebroplasty, with most insurance being accepted!