SURGEONS USING BALLOONS TO “JACK UP” COMPRESSED
Straightening up the “Hunched Over”
ORANGE, Calif. – Heart specialists use them to open clogged arteries, and now spine surgeons are using tiny balloons to inflate and help repair spinal compression fractures caused by osteoporosis and injury. The minimally invasive procedure, using a FDA-approved device, is called Kyphoplasty and it is being performed on patients at The Spine Institute at Chapman Medical Center in Orange.
“For many patients with osteoporosis, even sitting in a hard chair can fracture their vertebrae,” said Gerald Alexander, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and medical director of The Spine Institute. “Before this procedure, many patients suffering from compression fractures – mostly elderly -- faced pain and constant bed rest. As a result, when the fracture healed, they lived in a constant hunched position with considerable pain.”
Experts say more than 600,000 people suffer from compression fractures each year. Prior to Kyphoplasty, orthopedic surgeons had limited surgical options due to the patient’s age.
“The procedure allows us to repair the damage, alleviate pain, and return the patients to an upright walking position,” Dr. Alexander explains.
“We use the balloons to pump up the compressed spinal fracture and then fill the space with special bone cement. The procedure is comparable to that of jacking up a car to fix a flat,” said Dr. Alexander.
The 45-minute procedure involves the insertion of two needles into the damaged area of the vertebrae. A special balloon is then inflated into the area, raising the position of the vertebrae to where it was before the collapse. After the balloon is removed, the space is filled with a bone cement material. Depending upon the severity of the case, Dr. Alexander performs Kyphoplasty on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Patients can typically resume normal activities within a few days.
For more information on The Spine Institute at Chapman Medical Center please call 866-93SPINE (866-937-7463).