In many cases, vertebral fractures can be treated through conservative methods such as bed rest, a back brace or pain medication. However, patients with osteoporosis or whose fractures have caused severe, long-term pain may benefit from a minimally invasive procedure such as vertebroplasty to relieve symptoms. This procedure is also recommended for patients who are too weak to undergo spinal surgery, or have a malignant tumor within the spine that has caused vertebral damage. Vertebroplasty is most effective when performed on fractures that are less than six months old.
The length of time you will be off work will depend on a number of factors: your particular procedure and the physician’s approach to your spine, the size of your incision, and whether or not you experienced any significant tissue damage or complications. Another consideration is the type of work you plan to return to. Typically, you can expect to be on medical leave for 3 to 6 weeks; however, many innovations and advancements have been developed in the last few years that allow for improved fusion rates, shorter hospital stays and a more active and rapid recovery period.
The needle is smaller in size than that used during a conventional epidural approach. The procedure is performed with the patient lying on their belly using fluoroscopic (real-time x-ray) guidance, which helps to prevent damage to the nerve root. A radiopaque dye is injected to enhance the fluoroscopic images and to confirm that the needle is properly placed (See Figure 2). This technique allows the glucocorticoid medicine to be placed closer to the irritated nerve root than using conventional interlaminar epidural approach. The exposure to radiation is minimal.