In vertebral compression fractures (VCF), the body collapses into itself (more in the front than the back) producing a “wedged” vertebra. When several vertebrae become wedge-shaped, people can develop a humped spine, called kyphosis. People with bones weakened by osteoporosis (a depletion of calcium) or multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) are especially prone to compression fractures. Activities, such as lifting a heavy object, sneezing, or coughing may cause fractures. VCFs can lead to back pain, reduced physical activity, depression, loss of independence, decreased lung capacity, and difficulty sleeping.
Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are similar procedures. Both are performed through a hollow needle that is passed through the skin of your back into the fractured vertebra. In vertebroplasty, bone cement (called polymethylmethacrylate) is injected through the hollow needle into the fractured bone. In kyphoplasty, a balloon is first inserted and inflated to expand the compressed vertebra to its normal height before filling the space with bone cement. The procedures are repeated for each affected vertebra. The cement-strengthened vertebra allows you to stand straight, reduces your pain, and prevents further fractures.
Without treatment, the fractures will eventually heal, but in a collapsed position. The benefit of kyphoplasty is that your vertebra is returned to normal position before the bone hardens. Patients who’ve had kyphoplasty report significantly less pain after treatment.
Studies show that people who get one osteoporotic fracture are 5 times more likely to develop additional fractures. It is important that people seek treatment for osteoporosis early, before fractures occur.
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