Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are minimally invasive procedures used to treat damgae to one or more vertebrae, the bones that make up the spine. Kyphoplasty uses a balloon device to treat spinal fractures, also called compression fractures, which occur when the bone mass of the vertebra starts to crack and then eventually collapses. Vertebroplasty uses a small tube (about the size of a straw)  inserted into the damaged vertebra in order to strengthen the vertebra and reduce or eliminate pain.

While a damage to the vertebrae can occur for a variety of reasons, the most common causes include:

  • Osteoporosis which weakens the bones.
  • Cancer.
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids.

Treating Compression Fractures

Spinal fractures cause the vertebral body to crack or collapse, altering the shape of the spinal column. Just one fracture can upset the vertical alignment of the spine and can lead to additional fractures. One of the most common symptoms of spinal fracture is pain.

What You Should Know About Kyphoplasty/Vertebroplasty

  • About 700,000 spinal fractures occur every year in the U.S.
  • They are minimally invasive and may often be done on an outpatient basis.
  • In most cases, these procedures are performed under local anesthesia with sedation rather than general anesthesia.
  • They are designed to restore the vertebra to near-normal shape and, in that way, restore spinal alignment.
  • There can be immediate pain relief after these procedures.

What is the Difference Between Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty?

These procedures are very similar but use different types of surgical equipment to achieve the same results. The decision as to which procedure to use will be made by your surgeon based on what will likely achieve the best results in your case.

Preparing for Kyphoplasty/Vertebroplasty

If the University Spine Center determines that you are a good candidate for one of these procedures, the operation will be explained in detail to you. Although this is an established minimally invasive procedure, no surgery is without risks. Your physician will discuss those risks with you.

  • Before your surgery, you will be asked to undergo imaging scans which help determine the location for surgery.
  • If you use tobacco products, you will be asked to stop smoking as soon as possible. Smoking and the use of any tobacco products increases the risk of surgical complications.
  • Do not eat or drink for at least several hours before the procedure. Follow the instructions from the University Spine Center.
  • Arrange to have a family member or friend accompany you. This person should drive you home after the procedure.
  • If you take prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, tell your doctor. The University Spine Center team will let you know what drugs you may take on the day of the procedure.

The Procedure

A tiny incision near the fractured vertebra or vertebrae is required. The longest part of the procedure involves getting set up and finding the exact right spot in your spine for the procedure. The University Spine Center surgical team uses a fluoroscope (a video X-ray) to pinpoint the right spot.

In balloon kyphoplasty, two deflated orthopedic balloons will be inserted into the damaged vertebral body in such a way that the normal shape of the vertebra is restored. Then the balloons are deflated and removed, so that the hollow space they created can be filled in with a special medical-grade bone cement. When the cement hardens, the vertebra is restored to its appropriate size, shape, and height.

In vertebroplasty, a tube is inserted into the damaged vertebral body so that medical-grade cement can be directed to damaged vertebra.

Many people experience pain relief immediately after surgery. This occurs because the compressed vertebra is no longer exerting pressure on nearby nerves.


The University Spine Center will explain the risks and benefits of surgery with you and provide you with a recovery plan. Every patient is different, but many people recover quickly and are able to resume their old activities after a short time.

  • You may feel pressure on the incision site as it is bandaged. Stitches are usually not required.
  • You may be well enough to stand up and walk in about an hour or two.
  • You may be asked to remain in bed for the first 24 hours after surgery, although you may be allowed to get up and use the bathroom.
  • Talk with your doctor about when you may resume your usual activities.
  • Your doctor will tell you when you should come back to University Spine Center for a check-up. The incision will be checked to make sure you are healing properly.

What are the Risks and Benefits?

All surgery carries some degree of risk. Discuss these risks and any other concerns you might have with the University Spine Center. Many people who undergo kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty experience substantial pain relief, up to and including complete relief from pain. Some people get complete pain relief right after surgery, but this does not happen in all cases.