Back pain and aging don’t necessarily have to go hand in hand. In many patients, their back pain isn’t chronic; it’s instead due to a compression fracture in a vertebra. Compression fractures usually result from a series of small hairline fractures that eventually lead to a collapse of the vertebra, a compression fracture.
Dr. Trujillo treats compression fractures with an exciting new treatment known as kyphoplasty, where bone cement is delivered into the compressed vertebra to restore its correct height and eliminate the pain.
Where do spinal compressions happen and why?
These fractures occur most often in the thoracic spine, which makes up the middle of the spine, the T1 through T12 vertebrae. It can also occur in the lumbar spine, the lower spine consisting of vertebrae L1 through L5.
These compression fractures are usually due to osteoporosis, a bone-thinning condition especially common in women over 50 who have gone through menopause. As the bones become more brittle, the vertebrae aren’t strong enough to support your spine through everyday activities. Bending over to pick something up, an inadvertent slight slip, even a cough or sneeze can all cause a compression fracture in a person with osteoporosis.
These fractures usually occur in the front of the vertebra, and as they accumulate the vertebra eventually collapses forward. The back of the vertebrae are made of harder bone, so they don’t usually collapse. When the front collapses, the vertebra is now tilted forward and this can impact nearby nerve roots resulting in serious acute pain.
How does kyphoplasty fix the problem?
In the procedure, the patient lays on the surgical table on his or her face. Dr. Trujillo makes a small, half-inch incision over the affected vertebra. Using x-ray guidance, he inserts a narrow tube through the pedicle into one side of the fractured vertebra. Once inside the vertebra, a balloon tamp is then inserted through the tube down into the fractured vertebra. Dr. Trujillo then inflates the balloon to open a cavity inside the vertebra, restoring it to the proper height. The balloon is then deflated and removed, but the cavity remains open.
Next, bone cement is injected into the cavity until it is full. This cement hardens incredibly quickly, usually within 10 minutes. This now adds mass back to the vertebra, stabilizing the fracture and restoring the proper spacing and height.
Most patients report immediate improvement with kyphoplasty. Amazingly, they can resume normal activities in just a day or two, with the exception of heavy lifting or strenuous physical exertion, which need to wait for about six weeks.