A compression fracture occurs when one or more of the vertebrae (bones) in your spine collapses or becomes severely compressed, decreasing its original height. These fractures can be caused by trauma, like a car accident or a fall, or by other conditions that cause bones to become weak, like osteoporosis. Sometimes these fractures occur in the setting of cancers that affect the bones and blood or cancers that spread from other parts of the body.
Fractures in the bones of the spine can cause severe back pain and possibly loss of movement. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a bone scan may be used to confirm the presence of a vertebral compression fracture. This imaging allows your neurosurgeon to identify the exact location and severity of your fracture.
If using a brace and acetaminophen or ibuprofen doesn’t adequately control the pain, then a small procedure may be needed to fix the fracture and treat the pain. Common spinal compression fracture treatment options are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, which are minimally invasive procedures injecting bone cement into a fractured vertebra. If your fracture happened because of a tumor, your surgeon may recommend adding radiofrequency ablation to your treatment, which kills tumor cells.
Vertebroplasty is a compression fracture treatment procedure that involves injecting a special biological “cement” mixture into the small holes of weak or fractured vertebrae through a hollow needle. Once dry, this cement mixture forms a support structure inside the vertebra and helps strengthen and stabilize it, making it less likely to fracture again. Also, restoring the original shape and height to the bone provides pain relief.
In kyphoplasty, a balloon is first inserted through the needle into the fractured vertebra to create a space to control where the cement mixture is injected. The insertion of this balloon may also help to restore some of original shape and height of the vertebral body, providing pain relief. Once the balloon is removed, the cement mixture is injected into the space that the balloon created.