Categorized | Health

Innovative procedure can alleviate back pain

By Denise Moore

Spinal fractures probably aren’t one of the current “hot” health topics when having an annual physical. But for a growing number of older women, it should be. These common fractures can be disfiguring and the underlying cause of other health issues.

Spinal fractures are the most common osteoporotic fracture; over 900,000 spinal fractures occur every year in the United States, according to industry estimates and research. They occur more often than hip fractures in any one year. Sadly, only about one third of these fractures ever receive medical attention.

For Marian Williams, 80, of Salem, Va., it was both spontaneous and very painful. As she was walking down the stairs in her home, “It felt like something slipped in my back,” she said. “It started hurting right away, and the pain quickly became unbearable. I couldn’t do anything.

Even when I was lying down or sitting down, it hurt. It hurt to move. It hurt to breathe. I never had pain like that before. It was excruciating.”

Williams was admitted to the hospital and referred to Dr. Van Lewis, a neuroradiologist in nearby Roanoke, who recommended a minimally invasive surgery known as Kyphon® Balloon Kyphoplasty.

During this procedure, two tiny incisions are made in the back and balloons are inserted through small tubes into the fractured bone. The balloons are then carefully inflated in an attempt to raise the collapsed bone. The balloons are then removed, creating cavities in the bone that are filled with bone cement.

A clinical study of 300 patients has shown that most of those who underwent this procedure experienced improved quality of life, faster back pain relief and quicker return of physical function than patients who were randomized to non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy or pain medication. The benefits were sustained on average throughout 12 months. While spinal fractures may be associated with mortality, no data exists currently to show that Kyphon Balloon Kyphoplasty improves the mortality rate.

The complication rate with Kyphon Balloon Kyphoplasty has been demonstrated to be low. There are risks associated with the procedure — such as cement leakage — including serious complications. And though rare, some may be fatal.

This procedure is not for everyone. A prescription is required. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, contraindications, benefits and risks. Only you and your physician can determine whether this procedure is right for you.

Three days after being admitted to the hospital, Williams was treated with balloon Kyphoplasty. “When I woke up from the surgery, they took me back to my room and told me to lie flat for two hours … the excruciating pain was gone,” she said.

While results may vary from this procedure, Williams no longer has excruciating back pain and is back to her regular activities, which include lifting light weights, using the weight machines and taking low-impact aerobic classes at her gym three times a week.

Denise Moore is a member of the Kyphon Products Division of Medtronic. For a free, informational packet on Kyphon Balloon Kyphoplasty call 617-245-3930. More information about spinal fractures can be found online at or or by writing to Medtronic, Inc., 1221 Crossman Ave., Sunnyvale, CA, 94089. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at

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