Research indicates that osteoporosis can be caused by a diet lacking in calcium, excessive alcohol consumption (particularly in men), menopause, chronic steroid therapy and smoking. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 8 men over the age of 50 has osteoporosis-worldwide. Fractures, which result from abnormal bone thinning, can result in pain and disability. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive methods of treating patients with compression fractures of the spine. A medical bone cement is injected into the collapsed vertebral body to stabilize and in some cases improve vertebral body height. Vertebroplasty can also be used to stabilize vertebrae affected by tumors such as hemangiomas, metastases, lymphoma or myeloma.
In most cases vertebroplasty is performed as day surgery with conscious sedation which includes IV medications for relaxation and pain control. Patients are placed prone on the procedure table. After sterile preparation and administration of local anesthesia, a needle is placed in the affected vertebral body along the pedicles. Under direct fluoroscopic visualization, a mixture of polymethyl methacrylate cement (PMMA) and an opacifying agent such as barium are injected into the bone. When the appropriate amount has been administered, the needle is removed and a bandage is placed over the small incision. Many patients experience instant relief of painful symptoms. Patients are watched for several hours in the hospital and usually sent home the same day.
Kyphoplasty is an alternative approach for treating painful compression fractures. With kyphoplasty, a slightly larger needle is inserted into a vertebral body and under careful X-ray guidance place small balloons are directed into the bone. The balloons are then inflated in small increments until certain endpoints are reached. The balloons are then deflated and removed. The acrylic bone cement is then placed into the spaces created by the balloons. With kyphoplasty, patients are more often treated under general anesthesia and may stay overnight in the hospital.