Balloons for Back Bones
Every 45 seconds, someone has a fracture of the spine caused by osteoporosis. These are called vertebral compression fractures (VCFs). VCFs occur most often in adults over 65. About one million VCFs occur every year in the United States.

VCFs are very painful and cause spinal deformity. The patient can become stooped forward and lose height. The lungs and intestines have less room to function. Breathing and digestion can even be affected. A loss of independence and possibly even malnutrition can occur.

A new treatment for this problem is being studied. The doctor inserts a special tool called a bone tamp into the vertebra. The tamp has a balloon on the end that can be inflated. This helps pump up the bone to its original height. The bone tamp is then deflated and the cavity formed inside is filled with a bone cement. When the cement hardens, the vertebra is fixed in place. This method of treatment is called balloon kyphoplasty.

This treatment reduces pain and increases movement. The patient's quality of life quickly improves. Height is restored, thus improving overall health. These benefits remain the same even after a year.

Balloon kyphoplasty is a new treatment for vertebral bone fractures. It's a safe option that can quickly return older adults who've had a VCF from osteoporosis back to normal function.
Jon T. Ledlie, MD, and Mark Renfro, MD. Balloon Kyphoplasty: One-Year Outcomes in Vertebral Body Height Restoration, Chronic Pain, and Activity Levels. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. January 2003. Vol. 98. No. 1. Pp. 36-42.