What Should I Expect
Vertebroplasty is an invasive treatment for the relief of back pain caused by the compression or fracture of a vertebral body in either the thoracic or lumbar spine. Vertebroplasty involves placing bone cement into the fractured vertebral body.
How is it Performed?
During the start of the procedure, the patient lies on his or her stomach. A needle is then placed into the vertebral body of the spine from the back. Real-time x-ray fluoroscopy is used to monitor the placement of the needle into the bony part of the spine.
Bone cement mixed with a small amount of inert barium is infused into the vertebral body through the needle. This process is observed using x-ray imaging throughout the entire procedure. Once a sufficient amount of bone cement — enough to fill the vertebral body — has been placed, the needle is removed.
The patient remains on his or her stomach for about twenty minutes while the cement begins to harden. After this period, the patient is turned over and placed on on his or her back for up to two hours while the cement reaches its ultimate strength.
How should I prepare?
All individuals about to undertake a vertebroplasty should discontinue (under the direction of their primary care physician) any aspirin (one week) and blood thinners (3-5 days) prior to the day of the procedure. On the evening prior to the procedure, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight. Your radiologist will describe the procedure and any potential risks. He will answer any questions you may have about the procedure as well as your expected post-operative recovery.
Once in the x-ray suite, you will be comfortably positioned on your stomach. You will be given pain medication and a mild sedative through your IV until you are comfortable. You will be monitored by the physician and nurse throughout the entire procedure up until the moment you arrive at the recovery room. After 1 to 2 hours in the recovery room, you will be discharged with specific instructions. You will also be given the phone numbers of professionals to call if any problems arise.
Are there potential side effects or complications?
There is a small risk of infection or bleeding with any invasive procedure. Antibiotics will be given to minimize these risks. Furthermore, since the bone cement is introduced into the vertebral body as a liquid, there is the potential for the cement to leak through a fracture. Depending on the location and amount of leakage, one might experience the potential worsening of back pain or have no symptoms at all.
Most leaks are very small and have no adverse symptoms. If by any chance you encounter worsening back pain or neurologic symptoms, surgical correction may be required.
What Should I Expect?
Approximately 80% of treated patients have improvement in their symptoms with significant pain reduction within 48 hours. All patients are directed to follow-up with their primary care physician around two weeks after the vertebroplasty. Our radiology staff will usually call in one to two days to check up on you and see how you’re doing.
Vertebroplasty is available at El Camino Imaging Center, X-Ray Associates at Farmington and X-Ray Associates at Santa Fe.