The traditional treatment for fractures of the spine caused by osteoporosis has included pain reduction (medication), bed rest and bracing.

In 1984, a surgical technique designed to reduce the pain and loss of function called Percutaneous Vertebroplasty was developed in France. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration cleared a special balloon, the KyphX Inflatable Bone Tamp, for use in reducing (setting) fragility fractures to help them heal and creating a cavity in the soft inner bone in the vertebral body.

Over 460,000 fractures have been treated with balloon kyphoplasty as of September 30, 2008, and approximately 12,800 physicians worldwide have been trained to do the procedure.

What is an Osteoporotic Fracture?

Osteoporosis, the loss of calcium from bones resulting in weakened bone structure, increases the risk of fracture of vertebral body (the thick block of bone at the front of the vertebrae).

In this type of fracture, the top of the vertebral body collapses down with more collapse in front thus producing the "wedged" vertebrae, the "dowagers" hump and shortened height.


The resulting change in height and spinal alignment can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • Chronic or severe pain
  • Limited function and reduced mobility
  • Loss of independence in daily activities
  • Decreased lung capacity
  • Difficulty sleeping

Also, studies show that a first osteoporotic fracture makes it five times more likely further fractures will occur. That is why it is important that patients seek medical treatment for osteoporosis before it reaches the fracture stage. (See Osteoporosis Diagnosis.)


Kyphoplasty Compared with Vertebroplasty

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are both minimally invasive surgical procedures for treating osteoporotic fractures where a cement-like material is injected directly into the fractured bone. This stabilizes the fracture and provides immediate pain relief in many cases.

Read more about Vertebral Augmentation for Compression Fractures

Kyphoplasty includes an additional step. Prior to injecting the cement-like material, a special balloon is inserted and gently inflated inside the fractured vertebrae. The goal of this step is to restore height to the bone thus reducing deformity of the spine. Most patients return to their normal daily activities after either procedure.

See Vertebroplasty vs. Kyphoplasty

Dr. Courtney Brown is a retired orthopedic surgeon who has more than 3 decades of experience specializing in spine surgery. Dr. Brown served as an educator, speaker, and author.

Dr. Douglas Wong is an orthopedic surgeon with more than 20 years of experience specializing in spinal disorders and minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Wong practices at Panorama Orthopedics in Golden, CO, where he also serves as the Spine Fellowship Director.