Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

My mother fell and fractured her spine in six places. She has such fragile bones they can't do a fusion or put a rod in her spine to hold it in place. The doctors talked about doing a vertebroplasty. They think it should be staged in two or three operations. Why can't they just do it all at one time?

Answer:

Vertebroplasty is a good treatment option for vertebral fractures. Cement is injected into the bone through a tiny needle. It fills in the cracks of the fracture and helps hold the bone in place until the break can heal with new bone. There are a few problems though. The cement can leak into the nearby soft tissues. It can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. A small piece of cement can enter the blood supply and travel to the lungs causing a blockage like a blood clot. Not only that but the cement itself is known to be toxic to the heart. It can cause irregular heart beats, cardiac failure, and even death. Right now doctors suggest limiting the exposure and risk by only doing one or two bones at a time. The doctor takes into consideration the amount of cement needed and the location of the fracture when making this decision. Isador H. Lieberman, MD, MBA, FRCS(C), et al. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty: Filler Materials. In The Spine Journal. November/December 2005. Vol. 5. No. 6S. Pp. 305S-316S.

*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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