It is no myth that people tend to “shrink” with age, and this is largely due to vertebral compression fractures resulting from osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone condition that causes our bones to weaken as we get older. It is part of the natural aging process, although there are steps a person can take to lessen the impact of osteoporosis.
Sometimes, the bones of the spine, or vertebrae, are affected by osteoporosis. As these bones weaken, they can sustain small fractures that cause them to collapse, which can cause a loss of height or a curved spine that makes a person appear to be hunched over.
Vertebral compression fractures may cause not only a loss of height but also for severe back pain.
For some patients, nonsurgical treatment of compression fractures may provide pain relief by allowing the fracture to heal. For others, including those with severe pain that does not respond to noninvasive methods of treatment, surgery can bring relief from the pain associated with spinal compression fractures.
One of the most common types of surgical treatment of vertebral compression fractures is a procedure known as kyphoplasty.
Kyphoplasty is a procedure that is used to “build up” and restore the compressed vertebra. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive alternative to more complex and extensive procedures that were historically used to treat compression fractures.
During the procedure, a patient lies face down while the surgeon uses X-ray guidance to insert a device known as a balloon tamp into the fractured vertebra. The balloon is then inflated to expand the vertebra to alleviate the compression and restore its height and shape.
Once the balloon is withdrawn, the surgeon must fill the space to prevent the vertebra from simply collapsing again. The physician does this by injecting a thick bone cement to fill the void and restore vertebral height.
Results & Recovery Time
The primary reason for performing kyphoplasty is to reduce pain associated with a vertebral compression fracture, and studies show that it is typically effective in doing so. Additionally, patients may experience a degree of height restoration, although the purpose of the procedure is not to improve appearance, but to reduce pain and restore function.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) states that kyphoplasty is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, and in the majority of cases, a patient may return home the day of surgery.
According to the NLM, people should generally rest for about 24 hours following surgery. In most cases, the agency reports, people may begin incorporating regular activity the day after surgery, but should avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting for about six weeks.
Studies show that kyphoplasty has a high success rate in reducing pain, minimizing the need for pain medications, and improving their quality of life.
Determining Surgical Procedure
To find out if you are a good candidate for balloon kyphoplasty to repair spinal compression fracture from osteoporosis, bone cancer, or injury, talk to your physician. Although back pain is common, it should not mean you cannot find relief. Call to schedule an appointment today.