Osteoporosis is a bone disease affecting women more often than men. It’s not the only reason vertebrae collapse, but it’s the most common.
The physicians and other expert care providers at Pain Consultants of Atlanta help patients struggling with pain, including those with collapsed vertebrae. One effective treatment is a minimally invasive procedure called kyphoplasty. This post discusses what happens when a vertebra collapses and how kyphoplasty can help.
Before discussing the most common scenario—osteoporosis—it’s important to say that other things can cause vertebral collapse, too. You may have an infection that weakens a vertebra, or you may have a spinal tumor. In those cases, kyphoplasty may help, but you likely need treatment for the underlying problem first or alongside the kyphoplasty.
In the majority of cases, osteoporosis slowly weakens your bones over time. Your bones become less dense, and your bone mass declines. You probably won’t know this is happening as there aren’t any symptoms.
When you have osteoporosis, your vertebrae get weaker and can collapse without a fall or other injury. The collapse is to the inside, while your vertebra's back remains normal, leaving the vertebra shaped like a wedge.
When more than one vertebra collapses in this way, you end up with a rounded back. That rounded back is called kyphosis.
When you have kyphoplasty, your physician inserts a hollow needle into the collapsed bone. We use an X-ray to guide the needle so it's placed precisely.
Once the needle is exactly where it needs to be, we inflate a balloon to push the collapsed part of the vertebrae back into its proper position. Then, we inject bone cement to hold the vertebra in the correct position.
The cement hardens, and your vertebra is no longer wedge-shaped. Instead, it looks like your other vertebrae, and the curve is gone.
Since the procedure only involves a needle and no incision, kyphoplasty is minimally invasive. You can expect to heal more quickly and have fewer risks compared to a conventional surgical procedure.
If only one vertebra is being treated, the procedure should take an hour or less. Most of the time, you can go home the same day. We provide thorough after-care instructions so you know how to recover fully.
If your vertebra heals in its collapsed position, kyphoplasty isn't a good solution. Generally speaking, compression fractures, like collapsed vertebrae, take 8-10 weeks to heal.
When you have a collapsed vertebra, you may notice significant pain suddenly, or you may notice steadily worsening pain. In either case, you should seek medical care.
Compression fractures usually happen in the mid-back or thoracic spine, though it is possible in other areas like your lower back.
If you're experiencing back pain and you suspect it could be due to a collapsed vertebra, schedule an appointment at any of the Pain Consultants of Atlanta locations to find out if kyphoplasty might be a treatment approach for you.