A vertical compression fracture (VCF) occurs when one of the bones of the spinal column weakens and collapses. Vertebral compression fractures tend to be painful, and if left untreated, can adversely affect overall health and well-being.

In cases of multiple VCFs, the spine shortens and angles forward, resulting in kyphosis, or a "hunchbacked" posture. Over time, this condition may compress the lungs and abdomen, causing medical complications seemingly unrelated to the spine such as:

  • Reduced activity and alteration in mobility
  • Decreased appetite and sleep disorders
  • Impaired pulmonary function (breathing problems)
  • Increased risk of future fracture
  • Decreased quality of life; feelings of isolation and sadness

It is important that VCFs are diagnosed and treated by a physician. A physical exam, along with an X-ray, can help determine if a compression fracture has occurred. Once diagnosed, you may be a candidate for a Balloon Kyphoplasty procedure.

What is Balloon Kyphoplasty?

Balloon Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive treatment that can repair VCFs caused by primary or secondary (e.g. steroid induced) osteoporosis, cancer, or benign lesions. Orthopaedic balloons are used in an attempt to elevated the bone fragments of the fractured vertebra and return them to the correct position. Performed under local or general anesthesia, the procedure typically takes less than an hour and may require an overnight hospital stay.

What will happen to me during the procedure?

With a hollow instrument, a narrow pathway is made into the fractured bone.  A small orthopaedic balloon is guided through the instrument into the vertebra.  The incision site is approximately 1 cm in length. Next, the balloon is carefully inflated in an attempt to raise the collapsed vertebra and return it to its normal position. Once the vertebra is in the correct position, the balloon is deflated and removed. This process creates a void (space) within the vertebral body.  The void functions as a "container" for the bone cement. The void is then filled with bone cement to stabilize the fracture. The cement forms an internal cast that holds the vertebra in place.  Generally, the procedure is done in both sides of the vertebra.

What should I expect after the procedure?

Balloon Kyphoplasty can make it easier for patients to return to everyday activities like walking, bending or lifting, with significantly less pain than they had prior to the procedure. Some positive patient outcomes include:

  • Correction of vertebral body deformity
  • Significant reduction in pain
  • Improved ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Improved quality of life
  • Low complication rate

Although the complication rate for Balloon Kyphoplasty is low, patients are advised to discuss risks with their physician.