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Balloon kyphoplasty: 5 key points about the spinal fracture surgery

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If you’ve been diagnosed with a spinal fracture that’s causing significant pain and affecting your quality of life, you might have come across kyphoplasty surgery as one of the treatment options. But exactly what is kyphoplasty surgery and what does it entail?

Vertebral fractures can occur for a range of reasons, including a traumatic injury, osteoporosis or cancer. Repeat stress to the spine can also cause fractures known as ‘spondylolysis’ (most often seen in young people who do a lot of load-bearing sports).


The words ‘spinal fracture’ always sound very alarming, but spinal fractures can vary significantly and often only requires conservative treatment. In other cases, they can cause considerable pain and have a big impact on quality of life and mobility. Fractures can cause vertebrae to effectively ‘collapse’ too, which can cause further problems with misalignment, nerve compression and changes to the posture (kyphosis).


The specialist team at Wimbledon Clinics offer a range of treatments for spinal fractures, including balloon kyphoplasty. Here are 5 key points about the surgery:


1: What is balloon kyphoplasty surgery?

Balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive surgery used to treat spinal fractures, which involves injecting a special cement mixture into the affected vertebra to ‘reinforce’ the bone, restoring its shape and stability.

During the procedure, a small incision will be made near the area. Using X-ray for guidance and very fine tools to drill into the bone, the surgeon will then insert a small balloon into the vertebra and carefully inflate it to the required size. The balloon is then removed and the cement mixture is gently injected into the space.


2: Is kyphoplasty surgery suitable for all spinal fractures?

No. However it is an excellent treatment for certain types of fracture. For example, those with loss of height and instability, and/or fractures that cause pain.


Patients will need to first have tests, including X-rays and MRI scans, to determine the cause of their symptoms, and a surgeon will assess and discuss whether they’re a suitable candidate. In some cases, other types of surgery may be more suitable. At Wimbledon Clinics, tailoring treatment plans that suit your individual needs is always our priority, and we’ll do our best to ensure you are fully informed about your options.


3: Is balloon kyphoplasty surgery done under general anaesthetic?

Most of the time, general anaesthetic will be used, although balloon kyphoplasty is sometimes carried out with just local anaesthetic and sedation too. Your surgeon will discuss these details with you before any decisions are made.


4: What are the risks of kyphoplasty surgery?

All surgical procedures carry risks, including infection, bleeding and blood clots. These risks are generally very low but it’s important to be aware of them. With spinal surgery, there is the additional risk of nerve damage. Complications associated with kyphoplasty can include leakage of the cement into the surrounding space, which may require a second surgery to remove it. Using the balloon and modern minimally-invasive techniques to perform kyphoplasty surgery, however, has been found to help minimise risks further and speed up recovery times.


5: How long does it take to recover from kyphoplasty surgery?

After the initial effects of the anaesthetic have worn off, patients are encouraged to get up and walk around. Some will be able to go home later the same day, or the following morning. There’ll be some soreness from the surgery (pain relief medication will help) but most people notice an overall improvement in their back pain and mobility very quickly.


You’ll be given advice on looking after your surgical wound and your surgeon and physio will advise on the steps you should take to aid the recovery process. Generally, you’ll need to avoid strenuous activities and any significant lifting and twisting for at least two weeks – but it’s important to keep mobile and avoid sitting still for too long so you’ll be advised to take short walks, gradually building up. Your surgeon will assess your progress and advise on any next steps during your follow-up soon after.


Depending on what caused your fracture and how it had impacted you before the surgery, following up with some specialist sports rehab, physiotherapy or Rheumatology doctors can often be very beneficial. Not only can this help with supporting your recovery and returning to full strength and fitness, it helps keep your back healthy in the long-term too, reducing the chance of further injuries and problems.


If you’d like more information about spinal surgery and spinal fracture treatment or to book a consultation, get in touch here. Our specialist team is happy to help.