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Fractures in the bones of the spine (vertebrae) can cause severe back pain and loss of movement. Vertebroplasty is a procedure in which a type of surgical cement is injected into the fractured vertebrae. This can make the spine more stable and relieve back pain. The procedure is often done by a doctor who specializes in radiology, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, or anesthesiology. However, an interventional radiologist most commonly does the vertebroplasty.

Side view of vertebrae, disks, and nerves showing compression fractures in vertebrae.

Before the Procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to prepare, including:

  • Do not eat or drink after midnight the night before the procedure.

  • Tell your doctor what medications, herbs, or supplements you take; if you are, or may be, pregnant; or if you are allergic to seafood, iodine, contrast medium (X-ray dye), or other medications.

During the Procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lie face down on an X-ray table.

  • An IV (intravenous) line is started to give you fluids and medications. You may be given medication through the IV to help you relax and make you feel sleepy.

  • A local anesthetic will be injected into the back to numb the area. Then, a needle is inserted into the back.

  • Contrast medium will be injected into the area. This helps show the needle and vertebrae clearly on X-rays. Using video X-ray images as a guide, the doctor moves the needle to the vertebra to be treated.

  • A cement-like plastic material is injected into the vertebra. The procedure is repeated on other vertebrae if necessary.

  • The entire procedure may take several hours, depending on how many vertebrae are being treated.

After the Procedure

  • You will be asked to lie flat for 1 hour to 2 hours after the procedure while the cement hardens.

  • You will most likely be able to go home within a few hours. Or you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

  • You may feel an ache at the puncture sites for the next 24 hours. To ease this pain, use ice or pain medications as directed.

  • Drink plenty of water to help flush the contrast medium from your system.

  • You may be able to go back to your normal activities in about a day.

Potential Risks and Complications

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Rib or vertebral fracture

  • Irritation of nearby nerves

  • Worsening of pain

  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Leakage of cement, requiring surgery to remove it (very rare)

  • Spinal cord damage (very rare)


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