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The spinal column is made up of thirty-one individual bones called vertebrae. When they become weakened either because of disease or secondary to medications, they can break or collapse. This is called a compression fracture. Sometime a tumor grows in the bone and weakens it and can cause a compression fracture.
Since it is not possible to immobilize the vertebra completely, patients can have severe pain with movement or secondary to nerve compression. Until the late 1980s, the only way that this problem was treated was with bed rest, narcotic medication, and in some cases back bracing.
Now, we are able to offer a procedure called percutaneous vertebroplasty. This procedure is done with high tech X-ray equipment, so safe needle placement can be monitored closely. The physician inserts a small needle directly into the vertebral body that is compressed. Once needle placement has been confirmed, Polymethylmethacrylate, a type of bone cement, is injected. This essentially strengthens the bone from within.
This procedure has been very effective in decreasing pain, decreasing medication usage, and increasing patient mobility, and is also very safe.
Image from a patient with a painful compression fracture of the lumber spine. Patient had failed treatment with pain medicine and bed rest.
After vertebroplasty treatment image shows bone cement stabilizing the fracture. Patient experienced complete pain relief several hours after treatment.
The Stanford Medicine Online Second Opinion program offers you easy access to our world-class doctors. It’s all done remotely and you don’t have to visit our hospital or one of our clinics for this service. You don’t even need to leave home!