What is Kyphoplasty?

Kyphoplasty is an operation in which cement is injected in a vertebra. This is done to treat a "compression fracture" of the vertebral body.


Compression fractures occur because of weakened bone, trauma, or both.

  • Low bone density: Most compression fractures occur in people with low bone density.

  • Trauma: The normal vertebral body is very strong. A lot of trauma is necessary to cause a fracture (such as a car accident, fall from a height).

During a kyphoplasty procedure, the surgeon uses an x-ray to identify the broken vertebra(e) without making an incision. Then, a very small puncture in the skin overlying the "pedicle." Using careful x-ray guidance, a small injection device is inserted into the front of the spine. A balloon is inflated under high pressure to restore the vertebra back to its original height. The balloon is then removed and cement is injected into the vertebra where the balloon was. This may be done on one side or both sides of the spine, depending on the severity and size of the fracture. The cement is allowed to harden and is left in place to stabilize the fracture.

A kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure, and involves a small incision of only a few millimeters. Patients are allowed to go home the same day without restrictions. It is similar to a "vertebroplasty," and is also known as a "balloon vertebroplasty." In a standard vertebroplasty, a balloon is not used to restore the vertebral body height. Dr. Bjerke does not perform a vertebroplasty procedure for compression fractures of the spine.

Most compression fractures of the spine will heal on their own.  Some patients find that a special back brace will provide some pain relief. For patients who have severe pain despite this, or whose fracture is severe enough, a kyphoplasty may offer excellent pain relief with a faster recovery.

Patients with osteopenia or osteoporosis are at increased risk of compression fractures of the spine. Any patient with a compression fracture that happens with little or no trauma should have a bone density checked. In rare cases, a compression fracture may occur in patients with a tumor or because of other medical problems.

Above: a lumbar vertebra that has been filled with cement after a kyphoplasty procedure.