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Nontraumatic compression fractures of the vertebrae are most often seen in the elderly population and are usually the result of severe weakening of the bone from osteoporosis. The underlying Osteoporosis often results in delayed healing or lack of healing of the fracture.

Osteoporosis can also be seen in younger individuals, as a result of long-term use of steroids used to treat diseases such as asthma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Compression fractures may also occur in vertebra weakened by cancer. By injecting bone cement into the compressed vertebral body, the fracture is stabilized, significantly improving or alleviating the patient’s back pain.

Patients meet with the radiologist prior to the day of the procedure for a consultation. The procedure will be discussed in detail at this time. As with any medical procedure, patients are encouraged to ask questions.

Using special x-ray imaging as a guide, the radiologist inserts a specialized needle through the skin into the damaged vertebra.

The bone cement, which has the consistency of toothpaste, is injected through the needle into the bone. The material begins to harden over 10-20 minutes, stabilizing the fractured vertebra. It is possible to treat more than one fractured vertebra at a time, if necessary.

Vertebroplasty is generally performed using a local anesthetic in conjunction with heavy sedation, administered by an anesthesiologist or anesthesia nurse.

Hospital stay following vertebroplasty generally ranges from 4 to 24 hours after the procedure, depending on the patient and the number of fractures that are treated.

Most patients experience marked pain relief within 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, and may resume activities soon after the procedure.

Complications are rare, but patients are encouraged to keep a record of any symptoms following the procedure and report them to the radiologist at the time of the follow-up visit, usually 7 to 14 days after the procedure.