What is vertebroplasty, and how is it performed?

Vertebroplasty is a procedure used to treat painful vertebral compression fractures.

If you suspect that you have a compression fracture in your spine, schedule an appointment at OrthoNeuro today! We have many convenient locations throughout Columbus, OH. Most patients can be seen within 24 hours. We look forward to helping you address your pain and discomfort!

What Is Vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty is used to treat a vertebral compression fracture. An orthopedic surgeon injects cement into the cracked or broken spinal bone to provide pain relief.

Compression fractures are usually caused by osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bone. Osteoporosis is a condition that can affect many older people.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Vertebroplasty?

Not all compression fractures cause pain. Many can be treated with conservative treatments such as bed rest, pain medicines, and physical therapy. However, if you continue with severe pain for 2 months or more, you may be recommended for this procedure.

You may experience a painful compression fracture for one of the following reasons:

  • Injury: Traumatic injuries can cause broken bones in the spine.
  • Osteoporosis: Weakened bones can break with even simple movements, such as twisting or rolling in bed.
  • Cancer: Cancers such as multiple myeloma can lead to fractures.

How Does Vertebroplasty Compare to Kyphoplasty?

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are both minimally invasive procedures that can be used to treat vertebral compression fractures. During a vertebroplasty, a surgeon will inject bone cement into a fractured vertebral body. The aim of the procedure is to alleviate pain and prevent further loss of vertebral body height.

Kyphoplasty, on the other hand, uses an inflatable balloon to expand the cavity to create extra space for the cement. This technique aims to restore vertebral body height and prevent kyphosis.

Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty have proven to be safe and effective methods of treating a collapsed vertebral body.

What to Expect During the Vertebroplasty Procedure

You will usually be asked to put on a hospital gown before the procedure. You may be given either local or general anesthesia, depending on the number of spinal bones that need treatment. The area where the injections will be administered will be numbed before the injections are administered.

Guided by a special type of X-ray or CT scan, your surgeon will place a hollow needle into the fractured vertebrae. Once in place, a special cement is injected into the fractured bone to fill in any cracks or fractures and restore stability. The cement hardens in 20 minutes.

The procedure typically takes 1-2 hours, and you may be able to go home the same day. It’s important to take it easy for the next few days after the procedure and follow your doctor’s instructions.

At this time, a small bone tissue sample may be taken if the vertebral fracture was caused by cancer. You may also begin radiation treatment before or after the procedure.

What Happens After the Procedure?

Most people who have vertebroplasty go home the same day. Someone will need to take you home because of the anesthetic.

You may experience some soreness at the injection site for a few days. You should be able to relieve any pain with an ice pack. Ice can be applied for 15 minutes every hour. Be sure not to allow the ice to directly touch your skin.

You should ask your doctor when you can resume taking medications again, such as blood thinners.

You should allow 6 weeks to pass before you do any heavy lifting.

The Risks of Vertebroplasty

There are very few risks associated with vertebroplasty. Some of the risks include the following:

  • Leaking cement: There is a slight risk of the cement leaking from the spinal bone. This can cause problems if the cement presses on the spinal cord or nerves. Leaked cement can also enter the bloodstream and move to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or brain. In very rare circumstances, these organs can be damaged and sometimes even cause death.
  • Additional fractures: There is a possibility that vertebroplasty causes fractures in neighboring vertebral bodies.
  • Blood clots: In very rare cases, blood clots can occur.
  • Infection: Rare cases. 
  • Worsening neurological deficit: Rare cases. 

What Is Recovery Like?

After the vertebroplasty procedure, you may have some pain. This can usually be controlled by over-the-counter pain medicine.

You may need some general assistance with everyday tasks. Your doctor may also fit you with a back brace or a cast while you heal.

Usually, after 2 to 3 weeks, you’ll be able to get back to your usual routine, including driving a car. However, lifting objects heavier than 10 pounds, twisting, or bending should be avoided until after 6 weeks.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Spine Surgeon Today!

If you are suffering from painful compression fractures in your spine, schedule an appointment at one of our locations in Columbus, OH. Our expert spine surgeons at OrthoNeuro are ready to give you the attention you’re looking for. Contact us today!

Medically reviewed by Larry T. Todd, D.O.

Spine Care Specialists


“I recently had surgery on my lower back. I had heard that such surgery would result in pain and cause me difficulties in doing ordinary daily tasks but, I experienced no pain and was able to do normal activities at home and at church. Also, being a bee keeper, I was able to work the hives and extract the honey from most of the hives”

James B.