Spine Thoracic

Mother is going to have a vertebroplasty this week. Her regular surgeon isn't available, so they are recommending the radiologist do the procedure. I'm not really sure how to ask this question but are they qualified to do surgery?

Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn't require an open incision and can be done by certain medical doctors with advanced training. Orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, radiologists, internists and even anesthesiologists are doing vertebroplasties.

I'm using my laptop to read up on a procedure called vertebroplasty. My wife is having one as I wait in the hospital. I've found that it's not a surgery everyone can have. She's having it because of a spine fracture at two levels from cancer (multiple myeloma). I'm seeing mostly people with osteoporosis have this operation but I'm not finding much about cancer patients. What can you tell me?

Vertebroplasty was first used in the early 1980s when a bone cement was invented that could hold the fractured pieces of bone together while waiting for the bone to heal itself. The goal of the procedure is to strengthen and stiffen the vertebra, which reduces pain considerably and helps the patient return to normal activities.

Another Look at Major Complications with Vertebroplasty

Just about the time a surgical procedure becomes fairly standard and accepted as an effective treatment approach to a problem, someone steps in and takes a look back to see if, indeed, all is well. In this case series (seven patients), major and minor complications of vertebroplasty for vertebral compression fractures are reviewed. Vertebroplasty gives surgeons a way to fix the broken bone without the problems associated with open surgery.

My wife is off work with a burst fracture of the spine. She only works part-time, so she doesn't have any sick leave. I lost my job six weeks ago, so this really puts us in a financial bind. How long does an injury like this take to heal?

Burst fractures occur as a result of a high-energy load through the spine causing the vertebra to break or shatter into many tiny pieces. That's why they call them burst fractures.

Burst fractures are most often caused by car accidents or by falls. The danger of these fractures is that the bone fragments can shift and press into the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots causing temporary and even permanent neurologic damage.

Is a Back Brace Really Needed for a Burst Fracture of the Spine?

In this study, the use of a brace for thoracolumbar burst fractures is investigated. Do patients really need a back brace for this condition? If they do, what kind of brace works best? How long should they wear it? The first step in answering questions like these is to find out if patients wearing the brace have any better results than those who don't wear a brace.

Mother has had a Dowager's hump since she was 50 years old. Now at 75, she is starting to have tiny fracture lines develop in her spine. Are the two problems connected? Why are these fractures just developing now?

The Dowager's hump in medical terms is called hyperkyphosis. It is an increase in the forward curvature of the spine -- usually in the lower cervical (neck) and upper thoracic areas. A visible hump appears along the back of the spine. The head juts forward like a turtle out of the shell and eventually the chin drops down to the chest if the curve is pronounced enough.

My husband is starting to get hunched forward. His shoulders are rounded forward and he can't lie on the floor without a big pillow to support his head. I keep telling him to stand up straight but he doesn't do it. Is there a brace or some other kind of shoulder harness that could help keep this from getting worse?

Your husband may be developing a condition called hyperkyhosis. This is a forward curvature of the spine. You may have heard it by another more common name: Dowager's hump. People think this problem only affects women, hence the name. But, in fact, it is just as common among men.

The Dowager's Hump: What Is It? What Can Be Done About It?

The Dowager's hump in medical terms is called hyperkyphosis. It is an increase in the forward curvature of the spine -- usually in the lower cervical (neck) and upper thoracic areas. A visible hump appears along the back of the spine and the head juts forward and eventually down if the curve is pronounced enough.

I'm seeing a physical therapist for neck pain that just started about two weeks ago. She's been doing some heat and electrical stimulation. But now she wants to add a manipulation procedure to the middle of my back. She says it works well and there's evidence in recent studies to support her experience. Does this sound like a good idea? I don't really want my back popped.

Physical therapists, like everyone else in the health care field, are working hard to find ways to treat patients safely and effectively. Instead of treatment as usual, therapists are striving to find scientific evidence to support (or refute) current treatment approaches.

My elderly parents live 1,000 miles away from us. Mom called and said that Dad has a compression fracture at L3. The doctor is advising a wait-and-see approach. We've done some Internet research and think that Dad should have a vertebroplasty. Why hasn't this already been suggested to my parents? When I asked them, they had never heard of it before.

A treatment procedure called vertebroplasty was developed about 15 years ago. A long, thin tube called a cannula (needle) is inserted through the skin into the vertebral bone. Cement is injected through the needle into the compressed area. The cement hardens quickly and stabilizes the fracture. The surgeon uses a special X-ray imaging called fluoroscopy to guide the needle and ensure accurate placement of the cement.

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