My father just came back from the doctor's. They say he has a vertebral compression fracture. The treatment is either kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty. What's the difference between these two operations?

Plasty is a term that means plastic or restorative surgery. Both operations are used to repair fractures in the main body of the vertebra. Kyphoplasty is actually a type of vertebroplasty.

Vertebroplasty is the injection of bone cement into the fractured vertebral body. A long, thin needle is inserted through the skin into the bone. The cement is injected through the needle into the bone.

With kyphoplasty a deflated balloon is put through the needle into the fractured bone. The balloon is inflated to restore the size and shape of the collapsed bone. Then the bone filler cement is injected. With the kyphoplasty, the some of the height of the bone is restored.

Both methods are very technical. High quality imaging equipment is needed to perform these operations. The advantage of the kyphoplasty is improved spinal alignment. There's also less chance the cement will leak into the body causing other problems.

Mohammad E. Majd, MD, et al. Preliminary Outcomes and Efficacy of the First 360
Consecutive Kyphoplasties for the Treatment of Painful Osteoporotic Vertebral Compression Fractures. In The Spine Journal. May/June 2005. Vol. 5. No. 3. Pp. 244-255.

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