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Vertebroplasty

What is Vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed in an outpatient setting that injects specially developed medical grade cement into the fractured vertebrae.

Is Vertebroplasty right for me?

Your interventional radiologist usually determines whether or not you are a candidate for vertebroplasty.  The evaluation process includes a review of your medical history along with diagnostic images and laboratory tests.  In most cases an MRI of the spine is done before performing vetebroplasty.  For cases where an MRI cannot be performed (i.e. the patient has a pacemaker; difficulty remaining still for long periods of time; susceptibility to claustrophobia etc.), bone scans or a CT exam will be performed. 

Is Vertebroplasty safe?

While vertebroplasty is an extremely safe procedure, like any surgical procedure, there are risks involved. Bleeding, infection, increased back pain or the development of a new fracture are risks you should discuss with your physician.  Although the administration of the cement is carefully monitored, it can leak out of the vertebral body.  This typically does not cause serious problems unless it enters into the spinal canal which is rare.

How should I prepare for this procedure?

You should not eat for at least six hours prior to vertebroplasty.  For the exam, an intravenous catheter is used to administer the medication for conscious sedation.  The patient lies on his or her back on a special angiographic table to have x-ray images of the spine taken.  When the specific fracture or fractures are located, the area is sterilized and pain medication and sedatives are administered. Once the location is numbed, a hollow needle is inserted into the vertebrae with x-ray guidance and the medical grade cement is injected (up to two fractures may be treated in one session). The cement fills the cracks in the vertebrae, treats the nerve endings causing pain and strengthens the bone.

What should I expect during this exam?

The vertebroplasty procedure usually takes about one hour.  Following the procedure, you are observed for several hours before being discharged and sent home.  Results can be dramatic, and for many patients, there is an instantaneous improvement.  For others, the improvements can be gradual.  Typically, patients experience back soreness at the injection site. This pain can be managed with some mild medication or an ice pack.  Since the procedure does require conscious sedation, you should arrange to have a ride home.

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