Question:My wife is going to have a vertebroplasty for a vertebral compression fracture. The surgical nurse and the surgeon both went over the possible problems that can develop after such a procedure. I forgot to ask how soon after the operation would we expect to see a problem develop? Is it right away? Months later?
Answer:All surgical procedures come with their own potential complications. Most of the time, nothing happens and the patient has an uneventful and successful recovery. But in a few people, there can be problems.
Vertebroplasty is an operation in which a special glue is injected into the spinal bone. The goal is to hold the fractured bone together and keep it from breaking apart and compressing even more. Once the glue hardens, the bone is stabilized.
The most common problem reported with this operation is increased back and leg pain from nerve root irritation. The glue oozes out the back of the bone and comes in contact with the spinal nerve. This is called cement extravasation. If it hardens around the nerve, it can cause chronic pain, weakness, and disability.
Other complications of vertebroplasty include rib fractures, blood clots, bleeding, and infection. It's also possible that the bone above or below the vertebral compression fracture can develop a compression fracture.
Problems can occur immediately after surgery up to three months later. Any new symptoms should be reported to the surgeon as soon as possible. Early treatment for some of these problems can make a difference in the final results.Alpesh A. Patel, MD, et al. Neurologic Deficit Following Percutaneous Vertebral Stabilization. In Spine. July 15, 2007. Vol. 32. No. 16. Pp. 1728-1734.
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