A vertebral compression fracture happens when the front part or end plate of the vertebral body collapses and the bone tissue inside is crushed, or compressed. This condition is often painful and is usually worsened with movement. Additional symptoms of a compression fracture might include loss of height or a hunched back.
Although compression fractures can be sometimes caused by a severe injury due to a fall or car accident or from certain types of cancer, they are most commonly caused by a condition called osteoporosis, which is a thinning of the bones. With osteoporosis, the bones are too weak to bear normal pressure and can collapse during routine activity. This condition occurs most often in menopausal and post-menopausal women.
A typical course of treatment for a compression fracture may initially include a conservative course of treatment. Medication to treat the underlying osteoporosis and/or medication to relieve the pain caused by the fracture. You may also be asked to decrease your physical activities and to avoid lifting heavy objects.
Another common form of treatment is the use of an external brace to support the back and restrict movement. The brace keeps your back straight and prevents you from bending forward. This takes pressure off the fractured vertebrae and stops further collapse of the bone.
These conservative treatments aim to relieve pain and / or allow healing to take place. If healing does not occur, a surgical treatment option may be necessary.
There are two minimally-invasive surgical procedures that are used to treat compression fractures: Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty.
During a vertebroplasty, the doctor injects specially designed bone cement through a minimally invasive technique. The cement is placed directly into the fractured vertebra through a small profile needle, to prevent it from collapsing any further and eliminate the motion within the bone due to fracture. This stops the severe pain and strengthens or casts the fractured bone.
During a kyphoplasty, the procedure is essentially the same as vertebroplasty with the only difference being the placement of a balloon inside the fractured bone prior to cement injection. When the balloon is inflated, it creates a void or cavity within the vertebrae to aid in cement placement to fill the void and hold the fracture in place.
Both Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty procedures normally take no more than 1 hour. Both procedures are considered minimally invasive and typically, patients will experience markedly reduced pain immediately following the procedure. These procedures are often performed on an outpatient basis, but some patients may require a short hospital stay.
To find the treatment that suits you best, contact your physician.