Kyphoplasty: Complications & Side Effects

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Kyphoplasty can significantly improve a person's life by relieving significant pain. But as with every medical procedure, it carries its own set of general and specific risks that this lesson covers.

What Is Kyphoplasty?

Some of the worst types of pain are those that stem from a problem involving the spine. Unfortunately, the spine can be injured in many ways. One of these ways is when a spinal bone, formally called a vertebra, breaks due to compression. This is known as a vertebral compression fracture.

A kyphoplasty is one possible remediation. In short, a small balloon is placed inside the collapsed spinal bone and inflated. This restores the spinal bone's height. Once the balloon is removed, a cavity is left behind. This cavity is filled with bone cement to prevent re-collapse of the spinal bone.

Kyphoplasty injects bone cement into a vertebra

The procedure isn't without its risks and complications however.

General Complications

The more minor side-effects are the ones that are generally expected with any such procedure and usually resolve on their own or with minimal medical management. These problems include soreness and redness around the area where the procedure was performed. This soreness shouldn't last more than a few days, however.

Other possible complications are the ones that have less to do with the procedure itself, but the inherent risks of any surgical procedure. These risk and their complications include an adverse reaction to anesthesia and an infection. The chances of either are quite small but may increase in people with pre-existing conditions, like some heart conditions. This, of course, is addressed prior to the procedure with the patient.

Infections are also rare. Sometimes, the infections can be taken care of with medication such as antibiotics. Other times the infection is very serious and will require hospitalization and, potentially, surgery.

Another general complication is a surgical mistake. In this case, a needle that's used for the procedure may be placed incorrectly. This may damage nerves and the spinal cord. The seriousness of this damage varies depending one exactly what happens. The complications can entail sensory or motor (movement-based) problems for the patient.

Specific Complications

Again, redness, soreness, anesthetic risks, surgical mistakes, and possible infections are general side-effects and complications inherent to any surgical procedure. That being said, kyphoplasty also has some possible complications that are more specific to the procedure.

One important one to note is called extravasation. Sounds like a big and crazy word. But it simply refers to the bone cement leaking out from where it was placed and where it's supposed to stay.

If the bone cement enters the surrounding tissues or structures, this can result in the compression of the spinal cord. This can cause significant pain, tingling, weakness, and even paralysis.

Another possible complication is the leaking of the bone cement into surrounding blood vessels. This can cause what's known as a pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening condition that blocks appropriate blood flow to the lungs. The chances of these complications are considered to be low, but they vary on a case by case basis nonetheless.

Other possible complications include:

  • An allergic reaction to the chemicals used to help the doctors see where they're placing the needle.
  • The fracture of adjacent vertebrae, although it's debatable if this occurs due to the kyphoplasty or other reasons like the progression of the underlying condition.

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