Some surprises are good — but not when it comes to surgery. At University Pain Medicine Center in Central New Jersey and the greater New York City area, our board-certified pain management specialists believe it’s best to be fully educated and prepared for every procedure, so you can be an active and knowledgeable partner in your treatment.

We’ve put together this guide to let you know exactly what to expect if you’re scheduled for kyphoplasty.

Kyphoplasty 101

Compression fractures happen when your vertebrae can’t hold up under the pressure of your body weight or an external force. This can occur for several reasons:

  • Spinal trauma
  • Severe osteoporosis (weakened bones)
  • Kyphosis, a condition that affects the shape of your vertebrae
  • Cancer

Whatever the cause, vertebral compression fractures result in a cracked, and sometimes collapsed, vertebra that makes it difficult and painful to move.

If you’ve experienced a compression fracture in your spine, kyphoplasty is one of the most effective treatments for restoring function, regaining height, and reducing pain.

Kyphoplasty is a type of vertebroplasty, yet people often mistake one for the other.

Vertebroplasty involves an injection of cement that solidifies inside your bone tissue and prevents painful movements. Kyphoplasty — sometimes called balloon vertebroplasty — uses a tiny balloon to first create space in a collapsed vertebra so the injected cement can restore vertebral height and relieve pressure on nearby nerves.

Getting ready for kyphoplasty

The first step in preparing for kyphoplasty is to gather information. At our practice, we do our best to make sure you’re fully informed, but we know that anticipating surgery and dealing with pain can be stressful, and sometimes you just need to hear the information again or see it in writing.

We encourage you to ask us questions so you feel comfortable and in control of your own health.

While there’s no specific protocol for kyphoplasty preparation, there are standard steps to take before any surgery, including kyphoplasty:

  • If you smoke, quit — Smoking increases bleeding and slows down healing
  • Suspend or reduce alcohol consumption for a while
  • Tell us about medications and supplements you take (you may need to stop taking them before surgery)

Eight hours prior to surgery, you’ll need to make sure you have nothing to eat or drink.

Kyphoplasty: step-by-step

On the day of your kyphoplasty, our staff puts you at ease from the moment you walk in the door. We escort you to the procedure room, answer any remaining questions you have, and get you ready for the procedure.

1. Site preparation

While you’re lying face down on our comfortable procedure table, we thoroughly sterilize the skin on your back or neck to ensure a sterile insertion site.

2. Anesthetic

Because kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure, you don’t need general anesthesia. Instead, we completely numb the treatment area with a local anesthetic so you won’t feel a thing, but you’ll be awake and aware of what’s going on.

3. Incision

Next, we make a small incision in your skin wide enough for the slender, tubular instrument to enter.

4. Insertion

Using fluoroscopy — X-ray technology allowing us to view the instrument’s path in real time — we guide the tube through the pedicle of your affected vertebra so we can access the fractured area.

5. Balloon

Once the instrument reaches the target location, we insert a tiny deflated balloon through the tube and inflate it. Because the inside of your vertebral bone is soft, the balloon easily pushes the tissue outward, lifts your vertebra to its original height, and creates a cavity in the center.

6. Cement

Once the balloon has done its job, we remove it and deliver a specially formulated bone cement into the cavity. The substance hardens quickly and immediately stabilizes your fractured vertebra.

7. Close

Finally, we remove the instruments, close the incision, and place a small bandage at the site.

Recovering from kyphoplasty

Most kyphoplasty procedures take less than an hour. Once it’s complete, we monitor you for a while to make sure you’re feeling okay. Although you might feel a little soreness at the incision site, the procedure causes very little tissue damage, and minor discomfort goes away quickly. Within an hour after kyphoplasty, we get you up and walking with much less pain than when you arrived.

At home, you’ll need to care for the incision site by keeping it clean and dry until it heals. We may also prescribe medications or supplements to help your bone tissue heal and strengthen.

Depending on your unique case, we let you know when and how to re-engage in your normal activities, and we may recommend physical therapy to rehabilitate your support structures.

To learn more about what to expect with kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty, contact us by phone or online at any of our New Jersey locations or New York office.

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