Balloon Kyphoplasty

introYour doctor has determined that you have a vertebral compression fracture (VCF).  This type of fracture can cause severe back pain.  Left untreated, one compression fracture can lead to multiple fractures that, in turn, could alter the shape of your spine and adversely affect your overall health.

Traditional treatment for VCFs is limited to bedrest, bracing and management of pain, often with narcotics.  Although appropriate in some cases, this type of treatment does not address the deformity that can occur with multiple fractures.

Balloon Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive treatment in which orthopaedic balloons are used to gently elevate the bone fragments in an attempt to return them to the correct position.  Before the procedure, you will have diagnostic studies, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine the exact location of the fracture.

What is a Vertebral Compression Fracture?

f1The bones in your spine are called vertebrae; the thick portion of bone at the front of each vertebra is referred to as the vertebral body (Fig 1).  A vertebral  compression fracture (VCF) occurs when the vertebral body fractures and collapses (Fig 2).  Most VCFs are caused by osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become brittle and break easily.  Because osteoporosis usually progresses without obvious symptoms, a person may not know that they have the disease until a fracture occurs.  Compression fractures can also occur as a result of certain types of cancer or tumors.


f2Multiple compression fractures cause your spine to shorten and angle forward, resulting in a stooped posture.  This forward curvature of the spine (kyphosis) makes it difficult to walk, reach for things, or conduct activities of daily living.

Chronic back pain, loss of height, diminished appetite, and difficulty sleeping have been associated with this disorder.  Over time, patients with VCFs are at increased risk of suffering from serious, or even fatal, pulmonary complications.

How the Balloon Works

f3Balloon Kyphoplasty can be done under local or general anesthesia—your doctor will decide which option is appropriate for you.  Typically, the procedure takes less than one hour per fracture treated and may require an overnight hospital stay.

With a hollow instrument, the surgeon creates a small pathway into the fractured bone.  A small, orthopaedic balloon is guided through the instrument into the vertebra.  The incision site is approximately 1 cm in length.

Next, the balloon is carefully inflated in an attempt to raise the collapsed vertebra and return it to its normal position.



  • Once the vertebra is in the correct position, the balloon is deflated and removed.  This process creates a void (cavity) within the vertebral body.
  • The cavity is filled with a special cement to support the surrounding bone and prevent further collapse.
  • The cement forms an internal cast that holds the vertebra in place.  Generally, the procedure is done on both sides of the vertebral body.

After Balloon Kyphoplasty Treatment

Typical postoperative care involves the following:

After the procedure, you will be transferred to the Recovery Room for about an hour.  A specially trained nurse will monitor your condition and assess the degree to which your back pain has been alleviated.

During your hospital stay, you will be encouraged to walk and move about.  Generally, patients are discharged from the hospital within 24 hours.

Your doctor will have you schedule a follow-up visit and explain limitations, if any, on your physical activity.  After treatment with Balloon Kyphoplasty, mobility is often quickly improved.  Most patients are very satisfied with the procedure and are able to gradually resume activity once discharged from the hospital.

Frequently Asked Questions

Need More Information?

Please contact Dr. Jason Sheehan or call our general number (434) 924-2203 (Local) or 1-800-362-2203 (Toll free) and our staff will help you.