What is vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty is a minimally-invasive intervention to treat acute spinal fractures. In a vertebroplasty, a cement mixture is injected into the fractured bone via a hollow needle.

Vertebroplasty is performed in a hospital or outpatient clinic. The procedure may be performed under local anaesthesia, in which case you will probably also receive medication to help you relax and feel sleepy. In some cases it may be performed under general anaesthesia.

Why is it done?

Usually, vertebroplasty is recommended when other, less-invasive treatments have not been successful, e.g. bed rest, use of a back brace, administration of painkillers, or when medications have started causing side-effects such as ulcers or stomach problems.

What does a vertebroplasty involve?

The technique involves the injection of a specific type of surgical cement through a precision puncture under X-ray guidance. After administration of a local anaesthetic, a needle is introduced to the fracture, and then the cement is injected in a controlled manner. Once the cement has hardened, within a few minutes, the vertebra is strengthened.

Preparation for vertebroplasty:

In the week before your procedure:

  • Have a written record of the correct date, time and location of the procedure.
  • Make arrangements for the return journey home after the procedure. You must not drive after the procedure. Ask a relative or friend to take you home.
  • For the appointment, bring a list of your medications. Tell the doctor if you are allergic to any medications as well. Tell the doctor if you are using herbal products, nutritional supplements or over-the-counter medications.
  • Consult your doctor if you have to stop using aspirin or any other medication (whether prescribed or over-the-counter) before the procedure.
  • It may be necessary to undergo a spinal X-ray, a CAT scan , an MRI scan or a bone scan. You may also have to undergo blood tests before your procedure. Consult your doctor for more information about these and other examinations that you may require.

The night before the procedure:

  • Ask your doctors for specific instructions concerning food and drink.

Care following a vertebroplasty:

Most people can walk after the procedure. However, you may have to remain in bed for 24 hours after the procedure; after this period, you can gradually resume everyday activities.

Many patients experience pain shortly after their vertebroplasty. The majority report that their pain has improves significantly within 48 hours.

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