According to the American Journal of Roentgenology, the use of of kyphoplasty as a treatment for compression† fractures of vertebrae is on the rise.
Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive spinal procedure done in an outpatient facility. When you have a kyphoplasty, you generally go home the same day of your surgery.† The procedure is done with the doctor making a small incision in your spine, so that she can insert a deflated balloon inside your vertebral body.† Once it's in place, the balloon is inflated, which makes space for bone cement to be injected.† Then balloon is removed, and cement material is slowly injected to provide stability and relieve pain.
Although kyphoplasty is a popular procedure among doctors, and one that's quite easy on the patient, it's still considered "controversial".† In August of 2009, the New England Journal published the results from 2 small randomized controlled trials, which found that patients receiving an injection of cement and those receiving a placebo injection experienced equal pain relief.
Another reason for raised eyebrows, in my opinion, may be related to medical complication called "cement leakage", which occurs when the injected cement escapes the spinal bone and makes it to your intervertebral disc.
A study from Phillips University in Germany looked at the complications 372 kyphoplasty patients experienced between the years of 2002 and 2011.† Researchers identified a number of problems that resulted from this procedure - ranging from low blood pressure and fast heart beat related to the inflation of the balloons, to pain after the procedure, urinary tract infections, and more.
In the study, the leaking of cement outside the vertebra was by far and away the† most common problem encountered.† The researchers report that 129 patients, or 40.06% of the study participants, experienced cement leakage.
Cement leakage can result in new incidences of pain and can increase your risk for another vertebral fracture - in a neighboring bone.† A smaller study, from the University of Rochester, compared vertebroplasties (vertebroplasty is a procedure similar to kyphoplasty), in 38 patients.† One group received cement injection while the comparison group did not.† The study found that of those who did receive cement, 58% experienced a fracture of a nearby vertebra; of those who were not injected, only 12% experienced an adjacent fracture.
Related:† Spinal Surgery:† Risk of Infection
Bergmann M, Oberkircher L, Bliemel C, Frangen TM, Ruchholtz S, Kr√ľger A.Early clinical outcome and complications related to balloon kyphoplasty.¬† Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2012 May 9;4(2):e25. doi: 10.4081/or.2012.e25. Epub 2012 Jun 21.
Lin EP, Ekholm S, Hiwatashi A, Westesson PL.Vertebroplasty: cement leakage into the disc increases the risk of new fracture of adjacent vertebral body.¬† AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2004 Feb;25(2):175-80.
Long, Suzanne, S. et. al. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty in the United States: Provider Distribution and Guidance Method, 2001-2010. AJR December 2012 vol. 199 no. 6 1358-1364 doi: 10.2214/AJR.12.8733. http://www.ajronline.org/content/199/6/1358.abstract