Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat vertebral compression fractures, which are fractures in the bones of the spine (vertebrae). The goal of vertebroplasty is to stabilize the fractured vertebra, relieve pain, and potentially restore some of the lost vertebral height. Here's a step-by-step explanation of the vertebroplasty procedure:

  1. Patient Preparation: The patient is positioned on an X-ray table, usually lying face down. The skin over the targeted vertebra is cleaned and sterilized.

  2. Anesthesia: Local anesthesia is administered to numb the skin and underlying tissue around the area where the injection will be performed. In some cases, mild sedation might also be given to help the patient relax.

  3. Needle Placement: Under continuous X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy), a thin, hollow needle is inserted through the skin and muscle and guided into the fractured vertebra. The needle's precise placement is crucial for the success of the procedure.

  4. Cement Preparation: A special medical-grade cement, often polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), is mixed and prepared. This cement is a fast-hardening substance that will be injected into the vertebra.

  5. Cement Injection: Once the needle is properly positioned within the fractured vertebra, the cement is injected slowly and under constant fluoroscopic monitoring. The cement flows into the spaces created by the fracture, stabilizing the bone.

  6. Monitoring: Throughout the injection, the surgeon closely monitors the distribution of the cement using X-ray imaging to ensure it's filling the appropriate areas and not leaking into surrounding tissues.

  7. Completion and Needle Removal: Once the cement has been injected and properly placed, the needle is removed. The entry site is covered with a small bandage.

  8. Recovery: The patient is usually observed for a short period to ensure there are no immediate complications. Most patients can go home the same day or within a short time after the procedure.

After the procedure, patients may experience pain relief almost immediately, although some may require a few days for the full effect. The cement hardens within a short time, providing stability to the fractured vertebra. Most patients can gradually return to their daily activities as guided by their healthcare provider.

Potential risks and complications of vertebroplasty include infection, bleeding, nerve injury, and the rare possibility of cement leakage into surrounding tissues, which could cause irritation or damage. However, complications are relatively rare due to the minimally invasive nature of the procedure.

It's important to note that while vertebroplasty can be effective in many cases, it might not be suitable for all types of vertebral fractures. The decision to undergo vertebroplasty should be made after thorough evaluation and consultation with a healthcare provider, who can determine if the procedure is appropriate for the patient's specific condition.

Spine Physicians Institute treats back pain, neck pain, herniated discs, stenosis and other spine problems. Patients come to the spine center from across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Dr. Sethuraman is one of few Mayo Clinic fellowship-trained spine surgeons in the North Texas area. A fellowship is the highest level of medical education in the U.S.

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