Kyphoplasty: A revolution in vertebral augmentation

Percutaneous kyphoplasty has made a big difference in the treatment of vertebral fractures. This is especially the case in older people, where osteoporosis is the most common cause of such fractures. In these advanced ages, physical trauma to the vertebrae (from a fall or a blow) is not necessary, but rather the decayed bone density alone causes the vertebrae to be crushed.

3.5 million people suffer from osteoporosis in Spain, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, the number of fractures due to bone fragility is 100,000 and, in particular, vertebral fractures have an incidence three times higher than those of the hip.

How is kyphoplasty performed?

Kyphoplasty uses a needle to introduce a tiny balloon into the bone. The balloon is then inflated in order to restore the vertebrae to its original position, and thereby end the painful crushing.

To perform this operation the doctor makes an incision in the back, and thanks to X-ray images, deposits the balloon in the exact point.

Once the balloon is well placed, that space is filled with a kind of cement (polymethylmethacrylate) to avoid further collapse of the vertebrae. The operation can be performed under local or general anaesthesia.

What are the advantages of kyphoplasty over other treatments?

  • The use of this minimally invasive technique significantly accelerates the patient’s recovery to resume normal life. One can typically walk home within 24 hours.
  • The absolute disappearance of pain caused by the spinal fracture. This is achieved by stabilizing the vertebra and restoring the height lost due to the fracture.

What risks are associated with this type of technique?

The benefits far outweigh the risks of kyphoplasty surgery. Because it is a minimally invasive procedure, the possible complications are minimal. Nevertheless, they can be summarized as follows:

  • Anaesthesia may cause an undesired reaction, thus always carries risks.
  • Small risk of polymethylmethacrylate leakage that could end up in an unwanted place.

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