Vertebroplasty: Definition, Procedure & Recovery

Instructor: Amy Lipsett

Amy works as a nurse educator for a university health care organization. She has a bachelor's of science in nursing and a master's degree in health care administration.

What are alternative options to back surgery? In this lesson, you will learn the definition of a vertebroplasty, the specifics of the procedure, and the expected stages of recovery.

Oh My Aching Back!

Imagine that you are a new RN working in an orthopedic clinic. Today you meet Mr. Smith, who is an 81 year old man that fell a couple months ago. He has since been experiencing chronic lower back pain.

Mr. Smith grimaces as he tells you that his 'aching back' has negatively impacted his life and that some days he can barely get out of bed. He explains that he has tried anti-inflammatory medication, rest, and heat to help with his back pain but nothing has worked. You note that Mr. Smith also has a past medical history of hypertension and osteoporosis.

Mr. Smith obtained an MRI and X-ray prior to his appointment and brought them with him for the doctor to review. After the doctor examines Mr. Smith and reviews his test results, he tells him that he has a compression fracture in his lumbar spine.

You recall that a compression fracture is classified as a vertebral bone that has lost 15 to 20 percent of its height because of a fracture. The doctor tells Mr. Smith that his compression fracture is a result of his fall in combination with his bones being weakened from osteoporosis.

The doctor then tells Mr. Smith that he would like to treat the fracture by performing a vertebroplasty.


A vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure in which a doctor uses continuous X-ray to inject cement into a patient's fractured vertebra. The goal is to stabilize the compression fracture, which in turn will help to decrease the pain that Mr. Smith is experiencing. Hopefully with decreased pain, he'll be able to return to normal activities of daily living.


Mr. Smith should not eat or drink in the morning prior to arriving at the hospital. You will also need to review with him what medication, if any, he should take on the morning of his procedure. These precautions are necessary because Mr. Smith will receive anesthesia.

When Mr. Smith arrives, he will be taken to a pre-procedure area where he will change into a hospital gown and get medication through an intravenous line. He will then be taken to a procedure room to get sedation medication and mild anesthesia.

Mr. Smith will be positioned on the procedure table and his spine will be cleansed with surgical prep. His body will be protected with a special lead garment to protect him from radiation exposure.

At this point, the doctor will use continuous X-ray to guide a needle into the fractured vertebra in Mr. Smith's lumbar spine. Once the needle is in the correct location, the doctor will slowly inject special cement into the vertebra. This portion of the procedure may need to be repeated if the first injection of cement does not fill the entire fracture.

After it's all over, a small bandaid will be placed over the injection site. A vertebroplasty procedure takes approximately one hour to complete.

Mr. Smith will then be taken to the recovery area. Here he will need to lie flat for approximately one hour. If recovers well he will be discharged to home after about two hours.

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