Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

I'm using my laptop to read up on a procedure called vertebroplasty. My wife is having one as I wait in the hospital. I've found that it's not a surgery everyone can have. She's having it because of a spine fracture at two levels from cancer (multiple myeloma). I'm seeing mostly people with osteoporosis have this operation but I'm not finding much about cancer patients. What can you tell me?

Answer:

Vertebroplasty was first used in the early 1980s when a bone cement was invented that could hold the fractured pieces of bone together while waiting for the bone to heal itself. The goal of the procedure is to strengthen and stiffen the vertebra, which reduces pain considerably and helps the patient return to normal activities. It was first used for painful vertebral compression fractures associated with osteoporosis (brittle bones) in older adults. Vertebral compression fractures refers to bone fractures that occur just from the weight of the spine on an unstable and weak vertebra. The vertebra cracks under pressure, causing it to collapse in height. More than 700,000 such fractures occur every year in the United States. These fractures often cause poor back posture, debilitating pain, and difficulty completing routine activities. In more recent years, the use of this procedure has expanded to include other problems like cancer and acute trauma (falls, car accidents). It's not recommended for anyone with vertebral fractures. For example, unstable fractures that could damage the spinal cord must still be stabilized with an open surgical procedure. Patients with bleeding disorders, blood infections, or other more local infections are also excluded from this treatment option. Additionally, the patient must be able to lie prone (face down) for up to two hours. If this position is not possible or if there's a chance the pressure from this position could cause additional fractures, then vertebroplasty isn't advised. Murat Cosa, MD, et al. The Major Complications of Transpedicular Vertebroplasty. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. November 2009. Vol. 11. No. 5. Pp. 607-613.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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