Vertebroplasty is a treatment for painful fractured spinal vertebra. It is a low risk, minimally invasive, day case procedure whereby cement is injected into a fractured vertebra for pain relief. It is performed in Reading by Interventional Radiologist Dr Archie Speirs.

A fractured vertebra is typically very painful in the first days and weeks often severely limiting day to day activities. Fortunately, like most fractures, the pain will gradually subside within 4-6 weeks as the fracture heals and, for most people, the pain is much improved several months later. However in up one third of patients, for a reason that is not fully understood, the healing process doesn't happen normally and severe pain can persist for many months or even become permanent.

Figure 1

In vertebroplasty, cement is injected into the fracture acting as an internal cast stabilising the fracture fragments, and significantly reducing pain, particularly on mobilising. Approximately 75% of those patients suitable for the procedure will have significant benefit, with the remainder often being successfully treated with facet joint injections. The secondary benefit of the cement injection is that it maintains the height of the fractured vertebra which otherwise can collapse further sometimes resulting in a stooped posture.

The procedure itself is typically performed under sedation in a dedicated X-ray suite and is usually well tolerated by patients. However, it can also be performed under general anaesthetic if necessary. A needle is passed under continuous X-ray guidance into the fracture and then cement is injected. The cement sets within a few minutes.

Vertebroplasty is a low risk procedure, with just a few hours recovery time, before full mobilisation. Complications are fortunately rare. The most serious complication, when cement leaks from its intended site within the vertebral body to press on the spinal cord or adjacent nerve roots is very rare and it's likelihood is minimised by our use of biplanar fluoroscopic imaging. Likewise the risk of cement leaking into the venous system is similarly reduced. Antibiotics are given to patients prior to the procedure to prevent any infection.

Unfortunately, some patients are being referred for the vertebroplasty many months, sometimes years after their fracture due to delays in diagnosis and referral. Although many are still suitable, or may benefit from facet joint injection, others have healed fractures that cannot be treated. Early referral is recommended.

Case report :

Mrs KB a 50 year old tripped on the ice on Xmas eve fracturing a vertebra. Unfortunately this was initially diagnosed as a muscle sprain after a visit to A&E. It was not until her GP arranged an X-ray 6 weeks later that the fracture was identified. She subsequently underwent an MRI scan and was referred for vertebroplasty. (fig 1).

Mrs KB says,

'From the time of my accident on the ice I do not believe my pain level went below 8 (out of 10) perhaps even increased at times, but since having the procedure I can honestly say my pain levels are now 1-2 out of 10 which in my view is pretty marvellous and I would recommend this procedure to all who suffer a vertebrae trauma. Well done Dr Speirs and Team.'

If you would like a consultation to discuss vertebroplasty, please call Berkshire Imaging.

Further Information

Patient information sheet

Berkshire Imaging LLP . The Forbury Clinic . 23 Craven Road . Reading . Berkshire . RG1 5LE . Telephone: 0118 921 3177
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