The vertebrae are the bones in the back that form the spine. A vertebral fracture occurs when one of those bones is broken, compressed, or cracked due to trauma or stress. Vertebral fractures are very common in the elderly because the bones have become more fragile and are often less dense than they were before.
Standard treatment for fractures has been to simply wait for them to heal, but that can lead to ongoing pain and the possibility of physical deformity. Extreme cases have required surgery to repair the damage, but the risk of complications is high. Our doctors can perform two safe and minimally-invasive techniques that will repair the bone and immediately relieve the pain.
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain in the hip, abdomen, or thigh
- Pain that does not subside with rest or activity
- Numbness or weakness: this can be caused by pressure on the spinal nerves from the broken vertebrae
- Loss of bowel control: this can indicate that the fractured vertebrae is putting pressure on the spinal column
Vertebral fractures can happen to anyone who suffers a severe fall onto the feet, buttocks, or back, or who is involved in a car accident. However, a gentle bump, a swift movement, or even a sneeze can cause a vertebral fracture if osteoporosis is present. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that is characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density. Many people do not know that they have osteoporosis until they suffer a fracture.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
- Being female
- Advanced age
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Being past menopause
- Abnormal absence of menstrual periods
- Anorexia or bulimia
- A diet low in calcium
- Long-term use of medications such as corticosteroids or anticonvulsants
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive use of alcohol
We will perform a standard physical exam, ask you to describe your symptoms, and ask you when the symptoms began. If we feel that it is likely that you have a vertebral fracture, we will perform an X-ray, a CT, or an MRI exam to locate the fracture and pinpoint the source of the pain.
Uncomplicated vertebral fractures can heal on their own. Our doctors may suggest a brief period (several days) of bed rest, medication to control the pain, and possibly a back brace and strengthening exercises. If you still have pain after trying this watchful waiting, our doctors can discuss other options with you.
Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are highly effective and safe minimally-invasive procedures that rebuild and shore up the broken vertebrae with bone cement. These procedures can relieve pain immediately as the vertebrae is returned to its normal and healthy shape and position. They can also prevent the deformity that can come from an untreated compression fracture.
Our doctors have performed over 2000 vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty procedures, have written numerous papers on these procedures, and have taught other physicians how to perform these procedures.