The spine (or backbone) is made up of bones called vertebrae, which are linked together. A VCF occurs when the front of a vertebra (known as the vertebral body) fractures and collapses, often causing pain and increasing the risk of further fractures. Over time, some people also lose height or their spine can become curved. During a vertebroplasty, a special cement is injected into the spine to stabilise the fracture(s) and reduce pain.
Your doctor might recommend vertebroplasty to relieve the pain caused by VCFs.
Many VCFs are caused by osteoporosis, a disease which causes the bones to become more brittle and liable to break more easily. Fractures can also occur as a result of some types of cancer.
Many people recover from VCFs through a combination of rest, pain-killing medication and spinal support, but this is not always the case.
Vertebroplasty is usually undertaken with a local anaesthetic so you’ll be awake but will not feel pain. During the procedure your doctor will insert a hollow needle and inject bone cement (a synthetic resin). You can usually return home on the same day.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
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Your doctor will give you a local anaesthetic which means you’ll be awake but you shouldn’t feel any pain. You may also be given some sedation to help you feel calm and relaxed.
Once your back is feeling numb, the doctor will insert a hollow needle that he or she will move to the fracture site with the help of X-ray images. The needle is used to inject bone cement (a synthetic resin) into the affected part of the spine. This will harden within 20 minutes and provide stability, which should reduce the pain.
Your surgeon will then cover the site where the needle went in with a small bandage.
This all takes around an hour and you’ll usually be able to go home on the day.
Once you are ready to go home you'll need a friend or relative to pick you up as patients are usually advised not to drive immediately after the procedure.
Many people feel benefits in terms of pain relief within 48 hours of the procedure. Follow your doctor's advice about returning to work and usual activities - you can usually return to them as soon as you feel able.
If you live alone you should ask a friend or relative to stay or to visit you the next day – perhaps to prepare your food or to do a little shopping.
You may not be able engage in strenuous activity (even some of the heavier housework chores or lifting heavy shopping bags) for 6-8 weeks so you might want to ask if they can help you during that time.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. When you leave we’ll provide you with relevant advice and information.
As with all medical treatments complications can occur but most people are unaffected. Potential complications include excessive bleeding, infection, leaks of the bone cement used during the procedure or new fractures. You'll be given a contact number for the hospital.
We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
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