The vertebra, or bones of the spine, support the weight of the body. In older adults, vertebra loose strength due to osteoporosis or, less commonly, cancer. When a weak vertebra can no longer support full weight, it collapses leading to sudden, severe back pain.
Vertebroplasty is a procedure that stabilizes a broken vertebra. Patients being considered for vertebroplasty first undergo either a MRI scan or a bone scan to identify the exact location of the fracture. If the fracture can be stabilized by vertebroplasty, the patient is brought to the interventional radiology suite at St. Luke's Hospital of Kansas City, and placed on his or her stomach. Intravenous sedation is given and the skin over the bone is numbed with local anesthetic. Through a quarter inch skin incision, a needle is lowered into the broken vertebra. While the neurointerventional physician is watching under X-ray, an orthopedic cement is injected, filling the crack. Most patients recover at Saint Luke's Hospital for 4 hours and are then able to return home.
Kyphoplasty is a related procedure during which a cavity is created within the diseased vertebra prior to the injection of the orthopeadic cement. Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are performed routinely at Saint Luke's in Kansas City. Choice between the procedures is based on preference and can be discussed prior to the procedure.
This thoracic vertebra appears normal on standard X-ray. Swelling from the fracture is clearly seen on MRI scan of the back (Left, asterix). The vertebra was accessed with a needle (Center), and filled with cement (Right) relieving the fracture pain.