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Treating Vertebral Compression Fractures With Kyphoplasty

Compression fractures occur most frequently in the mid to upper (thoracic) spine and at the upper most portion of the lumbar (lower) spine. These painful fractures are often linked to decreased bone density due to osteoporosis.

Pain management expert Dr. John S. Michels shares insight about compression fractures from his busy practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Read what this award-winning specialist says about the benefits of minimally invasive kyphoplasty in reducing the pain and spinal deformity associated with vertebral fractures.

What is a vertebral compression fracture?

The vertebrae are stacked bones within the framework of the spine that provide the supportive foundation you need to remain erect as you stand, walk, or run. Your spine also provides the flexible strength you need to bend at the waist or even roll over in bed.  

Often referred to as a spinal compression fracture, or simply a compression fracture, vertebral compression fracture (VCF) related to osteoporosis occurs when a vertebra in the spine loses its density or strength. This causes the bone to collapse in various ways.  

There are different types of VCF, including:

Wedge fracture

This is the most common type of compression fracture related to osteoporosis and occurs when only the front portion of the affected vertebra collapses, causing a wedge-shaped or sloping deformity.

Crush or burst fracture

These types of fractures occur when the vertebra splinters or collapses, causing loss of height in both the front and back walls of the vertebra. Less common than wedge fractures, a burst fracture is quite unstable and may result in neurologic pain, deficit, or injury.

Osteoporosis is the most common link, but injury sustained during a fall, car accident, or other trauma can also lead to vertebral fractures. Although exceedingly rare, spinal tumors might also cause a VCF.  

What are the symptoms of a compression fracture?

Because a VCF may occur gradually as the integrity of bone deteriorates, early symptoms of VCF may be quite subtle.

Generally, though, a VCF causes:

Many of these symptoms are associated with other back issues, including muscular strain and herniated discs. VCFs are often overlooked until loss of height or a visibly stooped or hunched posture occur as a result of multiple fractures.

How does kyphoplasty help with compression fractures?

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that Dr. Michels uses to relieve pain related to VCFs by restoring the strength and height of the fractured vertebrae.

During the procedure, Dr. Michels makes a small, half-inch incision near the targeted treatment area. Using advanced X-ray imaging, he then inserts a narrow tube (catheter) into the incision and uses a medical balloon introduced through the catheter to gently lift the fractured vertebra to its correct height.

Once he’s withdrawn the balloon, Dr. Michels then fills the cavity caused by the inflated balloon with fast-drying bone cement, thus correcting the fracture deformity. Most patients report immediate pain relief and return to normal activity shortly after the outpatient procedure.

Dr. Michels may also recommend a course of physical rehab following kyphoplasty to help you overcome the loss of mobility, postural effects, and other issues associated with VCF, as well as starting on bone strengthening medications to treat the underlying osteoporosis.

Don’t put off seeing an expert for your back pain. Schedule an evaluation today with Dr. Michels, who has been named as one of Dallas’ best pain doctors.

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