What you should know

  • Vertebroplasty (VP) is a procedure to fix your broken vertebrae. Your vertebrae are the bones in your back that are linked together to form your spine. Your vertebrae help your spine and body support your weight. Your spine surrounds your spinal cord that contains your nerves. Vertebroplasty is done to treat vertebral compression fractures. A vertebral compression fracture is a crack or break in one or more bones in your spine. When your vertebrae is broken, it may collapse and lose its height. Vertebral compression fractures are normally caused by osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones) and tumors (growths). You may get a vertebral compression fracture from an injury, such as a fall.

  • Vertebral compression fractures may be very painful. You may have changes in your mood and trouble doing your normal activities. The shape of your spine may change, and shorten your height. During VP, bone cement is used to fill the breaks in your vertebrae. Having VP may decrease your pain and make your vertebrae stronger. VP may help straighten your spine and increase your height. VP also may help increase your movement and ability to do your daily activities.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • You may have an allergic response to the anesthesia medicine or bone cement used during your procedure. An allergic response may include a skin rash, swelling, and trouble breathing. During surgery, your nerves and spinal cord may be damaged. Spinal cord damage may cause you to leak spinal fluid, and you may become paralyzed (unable to move). After surgery, you may have bruising, increased pain, and you may get an infection. You may get fractures of nearby vertebrae or other bones, such as your ribs. Cement may leak into your spinal cord, kidneys, and blood vessels. Cement leaks may travel into your lungs and brain which may be life-threatening.

  • You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. A blood clot in your brain can cause a stroke. These problems can be life-threatening.

  • If you do not have the vertebroplasty, your pain may continue to get worse. You may become very depressed and have problems with anxiety. You may have more trouble walking and doing the activities you enjoy. The less you move, the weaker you may become. Decreased movement also may cause blood clots to form in your blood vessels. The blood clots can travel to your heart and lungs, and you may die. Talk to caregiver if you have questions about your procedure or care.

Getting Ready

Before your procedure:

  • Ask a family member or friend to drive you home when you are ready to leave the hospital. Do not drive yourself home.

  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.

  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin, prescribed, or other over-the-counter medicine before your procedure.

  • Imaging tests may be needed to look at your back and vertebrae before your procedure. Imaging tests include a spinal x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a bone scan. You also may need blood tests before your procedure. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

The night before your procedure:

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.

  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.

  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen?

  • You will be taken to the room where your procedure will be done. You will lie on your stomach on a table or bed. You may have pillows under your hips and feet to help straighten your spine. You may be given general anesthesia medicine to help you fall, and stay asleep. Local anesthesia medicine also may be given as a shot to numb the area where your procedure will be done. Your caregiver may give you antibiotic medicine to prevent an infection by germs called bacteria. Fluoroscopy (special x-ray) will be used to locate your broken vertebrae, and guide your caregiver during the procedure.

  • A small incision may be made over your broken vertebrae where a needle will be inserted. Your caregiver also may use only the needle to reach your broken vertebrae. After inserting the needle, dye may be given through the needle to do a venography. Venography shows the veins around your vertebrae, and helps your caregiver plan where to inject the cement. Cement is then injected into your vertebrae to fill the broken or cracked area. After the cement is injected, the needle is removed. If a cut was made in your back, it will be closed with stitches. A bandage may be placed over the area where your procedure was done. Your caregiver may do an x-ray or CT scan to check for any cement leaks.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room where you can rest until you are fully awake. You will have to lie flat for about 1-2 hours so the cement can harden. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. A caregiver may remove your bandage soon after your procedure to check your wound. Once caregivers see that you are not having any problems, you may be able to go home. If you are staying in the hospital, you may be taken back to your room.

Waiting area:

This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your procedure.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have worsening pain that travels to your legs.

  • You have increased trouble walking or moving around.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You are unable to move one or both of your legs.

  • You have pain in your rib area or lower back.

  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.