What is a vertebral body augmentation?
A vertebral body augmentation is a procedure used to treat painful compression fractures of the vertebrae. The procedure results in an augmentation of the weakened vertebrae by “casting” the broken bone from the inside, with special cement.
How is a vertebral body augmentation performed?
The patient lies face down and a small skin nick is made on the back, near the middle, overlying the fractured vertebrae. Using X-ray guidance the surgeon carefully guides a small metal tube into the vertebrae to the area of the fracture. Specialized attachments inside the metal tube allow passage through bone. Once at the fractured portion of the vertebral body a cavity is created with specially designed instruments. The cavity is then filled with special cement that hardens within minutes.
How long will the procedure take?
A vertebral body augmentation takes about an hour, depending on the number of vertebrae treated. After surgery, you will recover for one to two hours before returning home.
What is the recovery like?
You will walk out the door and go home the same day with pain medications. You will be asked to wear a back brace for four weeks after surgery whenever sitting upright, standing or walking. In the first week exercise is limited to short walks. Avoid heavy lifting (greater than 10 to 15 pounds), bending or twisting for the first several months. You can return to work at 4 weeks, unless work requires strenuous activity. At 4 weeks a progressive physical therapy program should be begun. If your fracture was caused by osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, it will be important to start a medical treatment regimen to avoid another fracture. Individual factors will dictate recovery time.