Vertebroplasty is an image-guided, minimally invasive, nonsurgical therapy used to strengthen a broken vertebra (spinal bone) that has been weakened by osteoporosis or, less commonly, cancer. Vertebroplasty can increase the patient's functional abilities, allow a return to the previous level of activity and prevent further vertebral collapse. It is usually successful at alleviating the pain caused by a compression fracture. Often performed on an outpatient basis, vertebroplasty is accomplished by injecting an orthopedic cement mixture through a needle into the fractured bone.

Vertebroplasty is used to treat pain caused by osteoporotic compression fractures. After menopause, women are especially vulnerable to bone loss. More than one-fourth of women over age 65 will develop a vertebral fracture due to osteoporosis. Older people suffering from compression fractures tend to become less mobile, and decreased mobility accelerates bone loss. High doses of pain medication, especially narcotic drugs, further limit functional ability. Vertebroplasty is often performed on patients too elderly or frail to tolerate open spinal surgery, or with bones too weak for surgical spinal repair. Patients with vertebral damage due to a malignant tumor may sometimes benefit from vertebroplasty. In rare cases, it can be used in younger patients whose osteoporosis is caused by long-term steroid treatment or a metabolic disorder. Typically, vertebroplasty is recommended after simpler treatments such as bedrest, a back brace or pain medication have been ineffective, or once medications have begun to cause other problems, such as stomach ulcers. Vertebroplasty can be performed right away in patients who have severe pain requiring hospitalization or conditions limiting bedrest and medications.

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