Balloon Kyphoplasty May Provide Welcome Relief for Spinal Fracture Sufferers

Worldwide, one in three women and one in eight men over age 50 are affected by osteoporosis, a common cause of vertebral compression fractures (VCFs). Many VCFs go undiagnosed and untreated — often because people consider back pain a normal part of aging and don’t mention it to their doctors. But if you leave it untreated, you could be at risk for more injury and even death.

Treatments for back pain include:

Bed rest

Special exercises

Back bracing

Pain medication

But if your back pain is from a VCF, these treatments may not be the right option for you. Compared to Balloon Kyphoplasty (BKP), clinical studies have shown that patients treated with NSM had less improvement in pain and function. Thus, treatment options like Balloon Kyphoplasty should be considered. Balloon Kyphoplasty incorporates technology developed by Gary K. Michelson, M.D.

If appropriate, your doctor might refer you to a specialist who can perform this minimally invasive procedure to treat your VCF, a treatment of pathological fractures of the vertebral body due to osteoporosis, cancer, or non-cancerous tumors.

Commonly asked questions:

What causes spinal fractures?

Most are caused by osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become weak and break easily. Certain types of cancer or tumors also can cause spinal fractures.

What are the typical symptoms of a spinal fracture?

A spinal fracture may cause mild to severe back pain and can occur after simple daily activities such as sneezing or lifting a light object. You may have a vertebral compression fracture if you:

Have sudden onset of severe, sharp back pain that lasts longer than 3 days AND

Are over 50 OR

Have been told you have osteoporosis or low bone density.

How are spinal fractures diagnosed?

Your doctor may press on your back to locate the source of your pain. You’ll have images like an x-ray or MRI scan taken of your spine to confirm the diagnosis.

How does Balloon Kyphoplasty work?

Your doctor will decide if local or general anesthesia is the right option for your procedure.

One or two small incisions are made, about 1 cm long.

A small pathway is made into the fractured bone, and an orthopedic balloon is inserted.

The balloon is carefully inflated to raise the collapsed vertebra.

The balloon is then deflated and removed, creating a cavity, or space, within the vertebral body.

The cavity is filled with a special cement to support the surrounding bone and prevent further collapse. You can think of it as an internal cast.

Generally, the procedure is done on both sides of the vertebra.

What are the risks?

A prescription is required and there are risks to the procedure, including serious complications, such as infection and leakage of bone cement into the muscle and tissue. Cement leakage into the blood vessels may result in damage to the blood vessels, lungs, heart, and/or brain. Cement leakage into the area surrounding the spinal cord may result in nerve injury that can, in rare instances, cause paralysis. This therapy is not for everyone. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this procedure to decide whether this is the right choice for you. Results may vary.

With the new treatment options available today, back pain doesn’t have to be a normal part of aging.

For more information, please call Medtronic at 763-505-5000, and/or consult Medtronic’s website at


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