Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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Is Balloon Kyphoplasty Safe?

Tuesday, 29 Jun 2010 10:33 AM

Question: I have a fracture in my spine (T8), and doctors want to do balloon kyphoplasty. I’m in pain and seem to be short of breath since the fracture. Can you tell me if this is safe or should I try something else?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Balloon kyphoplasty is a relatively new procedure that allows the collapsed bone to be re-expanded (ballooned) which theoretically restores the height back to a collapsed vertebra. Initially there were some problems that have been reduced by slightly refining the equipment, material and techniques.

Kyphoplasty is not used in all patients with multiple compression fractures, mainly due to the additional concern of complications, but is quite useful when compression is causing intolerable problems with pain or posture.

It is reported to improve quality of life, although it cannot be seen as uniformly safe for all patients.

Your fracture is located in a very stable area of your back and surgery is not usually performed. Kyphoplasty, however, provides an opportunity to reduce the development and progression of stooped posture we see in those with untreated fractures. This procedure is not appropriate for collapse caused by infection or malignancy.

Not all patients will benefit from this procedure, and some patients will suffer complications which include infection, rejection, and device migration. Although uncommon, the complications can be quite serious. Many doctors are cautious when recommending invasive correction for a fracture that should heal on its own in six weeks time.

I doubt this solitary fracture is the cause of your shortness of breath (SOB), and kyphoplasty won’t help. Have your SOB evaluated, investigated, and treated before you consent to surgery.

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