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Kyphoplasty: Symptoms, Classification, Diagnosis & Recovery

Kyphoplasty is also known as balloon kyphoplasty. It is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that can repair spinal fractures caused by cancer, osteoporosis, or benign lesions. It is not used for spinal stenosis treatment.

Kyphoplasty procedure is designed to relieve the intense pain caused by vertebral compression fractures, to stabilize the bone or to bring back some or all of the lost vertebral body height due to the compression fracture. Kyphoplasty or balloon kyphoplasty is a superb replacement of the typical conventional therapies such as analgesic use, bed rest, and bracing. It is a quick remedy for severe pain due to vertebral compression. It eliminates the pain almost immediately and the risk of complications during kyphoplasty is low. However, it is not intended for the treatment of arthritis or intervertebral disc disease. Kyphoplasty is different from discectomy, which is conducted in case of a herniated disc. Discectomy completely removes the damaged or herniated disc from the vertebrae of the patient.

Laminectomy and vertebroplasty are two other procedures that follow different techniques for stabilizing fractures. Laminectomy works by removing the lamina to create space, vertebroplasty works by injecting cement into the broken or cracked spine. For the same reason, vertebroplasty cost is different from kyphoplasty cost.

Who is the best candidate for kyphoplasty?

Kyphoplasty is typically suggested in case of:

  • Severe pain that cannot be controlled by pain-relieving medications
  • Severe functional restraints such as inability to walk or stand
  • Fractures resulting in loss of height and alignment
  • Multiple fractures in spine
  • Fractures with radical collapse
  • Fractures located at the thoracolumbar junction
  • Spondylolisthesis, that is, displacement of one vertebra over another

The decision to undergo kyphoplasty is often based on the presence of these symptoms and their impact on the patient's quality of life. Common signs and symptoms that may precede kyphoplasty include:

  • Back Pain
  • Limited Mobility: Difficulty in performing daily activities due to pain and stiffness in the back. This limitation in mobility may affect a person's ability to walk, stand, or engage in routine tasks.
  • Deformity: Visible deformity or changes in posture may occur as a result of the collapsed vertebrae, leading to a rounded or hunched back.
  • Height Loss: Vertebral compression fractures can cause a reduction in the height of the spine, leading to a noticeable decrease in overall height.
  • Pain with Movement: Pain is often exacerbated by movement, such as bending or twisting, and may be relieved by rest.
  • Neurological Symptoms: In some cases, nerve compression associated with vertebral fractures may lead to neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the limbs.
  • Pain Management Challenges: Inability to achieve adequate pain relief through conservative measures such as rest, pain medications, and physical therapy.

Before the kyphoplasty procedure, the doctor orders some medical tests to determine the precise location of the fracture.

  • This diagnostic and medical examination may involve blood tests, X-ray, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Discuss your medical history with the doctor. Tell him or her about all the drugs you are taking, even those you buy without a prescription and do not forget to tell if you have any kind of allergies from specific drugs and anaesthesia.
  • Tell your doctor if you are a regular drinker.
  • Your doctor might suggest you some specific medicines and ask to stop taking ibuprofen, aspirin, warfarin and other blood-thinning drugs.

Kyphoplasty starts by administering a local or general anaesthesia to the patient. The patient remains unconscious during the entire procedure, and therefore, is not able to feel anything. After the anaesthesia, the patient may receive antibiotics to prevent infection.The patient is then made to lie down on their stomach and is connected to the pulse, heart, and blood pressure monitors. The following the four steps in kyphoplasty procedure:

  • Step 1:  The targeted area is cleaned and sterilized with a solution. The surgeon makes a narrow pathway into the fractured bone with a hollow needle (trocar). This incision site is about 1 cm in length. The surgeon guides the needle with the help of fluoroscopy.
  • Step 2: Now a small orthopaedic balloon is inserted into the trocar. Usually, two balloons are used in the procedure, one on each side of the vertebral body. It gives better support to the bone as it moves back into position and increases the tendency of deformity correction.
  • Step 3: Next, the balloon is gently inflated to create the space needed for the bone cement.
  • Step 4: Once a room has been created, the mixture is injected to fill it up. Fluoroscopy helps the surgeon confirm that the mixture is distributed accurately. After the cement is in place, the balloons are deflated and removed with a trocar.

No stitches are required during the procedure, but the incision is bandaged. The bone cement dries rapidly and forms an internal cast that holds the vertebral body in place. Kyphoplasty procedure takes less than one hour if only one vertebra is being treated. 

  • After kyphoplasty, you will have to stay in the recovery room for a short time. You may be allowed to get up and walk just after an hour of the procedure. However, you can feel some soreness that is common, but you should feel better within 48 hours of the procedure.
  • Usually, kyphoplasty is done as an outpatient procedure, so you may be able to go home the same day. But in some cases, kyphoplasty is also performed after admitting the patient. In such cases, the patient is required to stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring. Inpatient session for kyphoplasty is conducted if the procedure involves more than one vertebra or if there are any complications. Avoid lifting heavy objects and strenuous activities for at least six weeks. Apply ice to the wound area if you have pain where the incision was made. The patient is typically able to conduct daily activities after one week of the procedure. However, strenuous exertion and heavy lifting should be avoided for at least six weeks. It is important to follow the instructions given by the doctor for a speedy recovery after kyphoplasty.

Typically, kyphoplasty does not have any severe side effects. You may experience some minor side discomfort such as soreness and redness of the skin. These problems usually resolve on their own or with minimal medical management. However, you should consult the doctor in case the symptoms persist for more than a few days.

The chances of risks and complications from kyphoplasty are overall low. But some complications may arise nonetheless. Extravasation is one such procedure that can take place in some cases but it is very rare. Extravasation refers to the leakage of bone cement from where it is supposed to stay. The risk of severe bleeding, nerve injury, spinal fluid leak, paralysis, and pulmonary embolus is less than two percent. Kyphoplasty is a safe procedure but call your doctor right away if you experience severe muscle pain, continues leg pain, back or rib pain that is really bad or gets worse over time, fever, numbness or tingling sensation, and weakness.

Ms Patience: Cosmetic Surgery
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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the success rate of kyphoplasty?

A: Kyphoplasty is an important treatment for immediate pain reduction. It has been proven that kyphoplasty stabilizes the compressed bone and helps resume the body height and alignment of the vertebra. Kyphoplasty has over 90 percent of success rate. It is associated with significant improvement in mobility and ability to perform normal daily activities. Patients have also reported improved quality of life, vitality and better mental health.

Q: What is the typical spinal stenosis treatment?

A: Spinal stenosis is mostly managed with the help of medications, physical therapy, and surgical options such as decompression, laminectomy, or spinal fusion.

Q: What is the kyphoplasty cost?

A: Kyphoplasty cost varies from one hospital to another and depends on several factors such as the complexity of the condition, the surgical expertise of the doctor, and hospital charges. The cost of kyphoplasty should not be confused with vertebroplasty cost as both are separate procedures.

Q: What are the risks of kyphoplasty?

A: Stroke, cardiac arrest, heart attack, and cement leakage are some of the risks associated with kyphoplasty. However, their rate of occurrence is quite low.