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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive surgical procedures used to treat compression fractures of the spinal vertebrae, the bones that make up the spine.

These procedures are used to help relieve pain resulting from spinal compression, and are often recommended for patients who are unable to tolerate open spinal surgery, particularly the elderly or those with autoimmune disorders.

As many as 75 percent of patients receiving these procedures regain lost mobility, experience pain relief and an ability to resume past activities, which, in turn, helps overcome osteoporosis.

Most patients experience a pronounced relief of paint from spinal compression—many lose symptoms of spine compression entirely.


Vertebroplasty is used on patients for whom nonsurgical treatments for back pain have proven ineffective.

It may also be performed on a patient who is suffering severe back pain requiring hospitalization.

Your physician injects special cement through a needle into the fractured bone.


Kyphoplasty is performed on patients who are experiencing vertebral compression fractures resulting from osteoporosis.

A balloon tamp is used, which is inserted into the fractured vertebra and inflated, which creates a space where the fractured bone was, and may restore the vertebra to its proper height and shape.

The balloon is then removed and special cement is inserted into the space created by the balloon.

The Procedures

Both procedures use polymethylacrylate (PMMA) as a key ingredient in the cement.

This medical cement typically hardens within 20 minutes. A special needle (trocar) is used to penetrate the spinal bone and administer the cement.

These procedures are most commonly performed by specially-trained neuroradiologists or interventional radiologists, who use radiographic tables and fluoroscopes to monitor the progress of their work as they operate.

Both procedures use the posterior (back) approach, and require you to be lying face-down. Using image-guided techniques, the surgeon guides the trocar through the spinal muscles until it is positioned within the fractured vertebra to place the cement.

A computed tomography (CT) scan may be performed at the end of either procedure to examine distribution of the cement, ensuring even distribution.

After Surgery

Both procedures are outpatient surgeries, taking about one hour to perform. Bed rest is recommended for the first 24 hours, and, in time, light activity may be resumed, although strenuous exertion is to be avoided for at least six weeks after surgery.

For many patients, pain relief will be immediate in the wake of these procedures; in others, it may take a few weeks. There may be some pain at the point of needle insertion, but your doctor will give you pain medicine to help with post-operative discomfort.

As both procedures are minimally invasive, patients may find a speedy recovery and improvement of quality of life.


Due to the minimally invasive nature of these procedures, complications are limited, including:

  • Infection: there is a very slight risk of infection, common in any procedure that leads to the puncture of the skin
  • Cement leakage: rarely, a small amount of cement can leak from the vertebra. This ordinarily causes no serious problem unless the leakage moves into a vital location
  • Numbness, tingling, paralysis: very rarely, some injury to spinal nerves may occur, causing adverse reactions
  • Allergy: some patients may be allergic to materials used in the procedures

Last UpdateJanuary 19, 2012