The National Osteoporosis Society estimates 120,000 Vertebral Compression Fractures (VCF’s) occur in the UK each year.
Osteoporotic fractures are common in the elderly, particularly in post menopausal women. They can also be associated with the prolonged use of steroids.
Some of the most debilitating VCF’s are those that occur in the Lumbar (lower) or the Thoracic (middle) Spine. A VCF occurs when the vertebra collapses, reduces in height and forms a wedge shape.
Up to 40% of patients suffering a VCF will be in constant pain and the risk of further vertebral fracture is five fold.
Now a new minimally invasive procedure is available which is suitable in up to a third of VCF cases. It needs to be carried out on symptomatic patients within the 4 months post fracture.
The procedure known as “Balloon Kyphoplasty” involves making a small incision in the patient’s back through which one or two balloon devices are inserted into the crushed vertebra. Once it is in position, the balloon which is filled with a radioopaque contrast liquid so it can be clearly visualised under X ray, is slowly inflated to restore some or all of the vertebra’s original height. The balloon is then deflated and withdrawn. The cavity is then filled with bone cement to stabilise the fracture.
This procedure is performed with sedation and a local anaesthetic. Pain relief is instant and the patient can be mobilised immediately.
The patient’s stay in hospital is reduced to one day and the rate of complication is between 0.5 and 1%.
The restoration of the vertebral structure regains some of the height lost and importantly, this reduces the curvature of the spine and the pressure put on the adjacent vertebrae which now have a lower risk of themselves suffering compression fractures.
This procedure was approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) in 2006 and is offered by our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon – Mr Chris Schofield and Consultant Radiologist – Dr Allan Irvine.
See also: Bone Density Unit