Patients' Guide To
Spinal Fractures & Kyphoplasty

Facts about Balloon Kyphoplasty

Balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive spine procedure performed to treat a spinal compression fracture, also known as vertebral compression fracture or VCF. Your spine specialist or referring doctor may recommend kyphoplasty to help reduce post-fracture pain, restore lost height of the affected vertebral body and stabilize the fractured and/or compressed bone.
Person undergoing anesthesiaKyphoplasty can be performed using local or general anesthesia. Photo Source:

Surgical Readiness and Anesthesia

Before kyphoplasty, the patient undergoes a physical exam for medical clearance purposes to assess individual surgical readiness (eg, cardiovascular). Although the procedure is minimally invasive, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential for complication. The pre-surgical evaluation of the patient’s health before the day of surgery can help the spine specialist plan for and avoid risk of a potential complication.

Kyphoplasty can be performed using local or general anesthesia, depending on many factors, such as the patient’s general health and severity of the fracture.

How Is Balloon Kyphoplasty Performed?

During balloon kyphoplasty, a thin tube (called a cannula) is inserted into the fractured spinal bone. Attached to the tube is a small balloon that moves or repositions the pieces of broken and/or compressed vertebral bone and creates a space (bony void) when it’s inflated. The balloon is removed, and the bony void is filled with bone cement that quickly stabilizes the fracture. Balloon kyphoplasty typically takes about a half hour per spinal level.

Outpatient or Reduced Hospitalization

Most patients who undergo balloon kyphoplasty are discharged home the same day as their surgical procedure. Some patients may need to stay overnight or longer depending on various factors, such as the number of levels treated or severity and/or cause of the fracture.

Benefits of Balloon Kyphoplasty

Minimally invasive treatment of spinal VCF using balloon kyphoplasty quickly stabilizes the fracture and reduces related back pain. Kyphoplasty offers the additional benefit of restoring vertebral height, which reduces and/or helps prevent the abnormal kyphosis (a hunchback curve) that some people develop form multiple vertebral compression fractures.

Other benefits of balloon kyphoplasty include:

  • Improved function and mobility
  • Reduced number of days the patient may need to be in bed due to back pain
  • Low complication rate
  • Improved quality of life

Special Considerations and Risks of Kyphoplasty

Spinal vertebral compression fractures can compromise the spinal canal, spinal cord and nerve roots. Depending on where the VCF occurs in the spine, it may cause or be at risk for causing myelopathy or spinal cord injury (numbness, weakness, or bowel/bladder dysfunction).

A vertebral compression fracture(s) that is extensive (eg, affecting multiple levels) and/or severe may require minimally invasive or open surgical spinal decompression, such as laminectomy or laminotomy. Spinal decompression procedures are performed to remove bone, disc or other tissue compressing the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. In such cases, some patients may not be candidates for a minimally invasive balloon kyphoplasty.

Although balloon kyphoplasty has a low complication rate, it isn’t a risk-free procedure. As with any surgery, complications can occur. Below are the serious—but rare—risks associated with kyphoplasty:

  • Heart attack (blockage of blood flow to heart muscle)
  • Cardiac arrest (sudden loss of heart function)
  • Stroke (brain damage caused by blood flow interruption)
  • Bone cement leakage may cause a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) if the cement spreads to the lungs. In addition, cement can leak into the muscle and tissue around the spinal cord, and even lead to spinal cord injury.

You can read more about potential complications in Kyphoplasty Risks.

Meaningful Discussion Needed With Your Spine Specialist

Undergoing spine surgery—even if it’s a minimally invasive procedure like balloon kyphoplasty—can be an unsettling experience. Talking to your surgeon to clearly understand the risks and benefits before the procedure will help minimize those fears. Asking your doctor questions and being prepared with your own medical history (eg, sharing your current and previous medical conditions and current prescription regimen) will help ensure your doctor recommends the right treatment plan for you.


Updated on: 05/11/19
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Balloon Kyphoplasty: Frequently Asked Questions
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Balloon Kyphoplasty: Frequently Asked Questions

Six balloon kyphoplasty frequently asked questions are answered in a discussion of treatment of spinal vertebral compression fractures (VCFs).
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