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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Uses Balloons to Fix Bones

March 19, 2007

Balloon Kyphoplasty procedure performed at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center provides significant improvement in quality of life to patients suffering from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis.

HOUSTON – Recently, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center began offering Balloon Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive treatment option for patients suffering from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis. Balloon Kyphoplasty is designed to correct spinal deformity due to osteoporotic fractures, significantly reducing back pain and improving a patient’s ability to return to daily activities.

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones of the spine to weaken and often collapse, resulting in spinal fractures. Traditional treatment for spinal fractures includes bed rest, medication, and back bracing. While these therapies may help to decrease a patient’s pain over time, they do not treat the deformity related to the osteoporotic fractures.

“This minimally invasive procedure is designed to repair vertebral compression fractures and restore the vertebrae to the correct position, reducing back pain, reducing the number of days in bed, significantly improving mobility, and increasing overall quality of life,” said Majdi Radaideh, M.D., Diagnostic & Therapeutic Care Line neuroradiologist.

In Balloon Kyphoplasty, small orthopedic balloons are used to gently elevate the collapsed bone in an attempt to restore the fractured vertebra back to its normal shape and correct the vertebral body deformity. First, a hollow instrument is used to create a small pathway into the fractured bone. A small, orthopedic balloon is guided through the instrument into the vertebra. The incision sites are each approximately one centimeter in length. Next, the balloon is carefully inflated in an attempt to raise the collapsed vertebra and return it to its normal position.

Once the vertebra is in the correct position, the balloon is deflated and removed. This process creates a cavity within the vertebral body. The cavity is filled with a special cement to support the surrounding bone and prevent further collapse. The cement forms an internal cast holding the vertebra in place.

“There as been an expansion of treatment options for spine conditions at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center following the arrival of Dr. Bruce Ehni, our new chief of Neurosurgery. Dr. Ehni's vision of expansion includes offering more advanced, minimally invasive procedures and surgical techniques. Kyphoplasty is just one of these cutting-edge procedures greatly benefiting the patient,” said Radaideh.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, each year 700,000 patients in the U.S. suffer spinal fractures due to osteoporosis. Unfortunately, over 400,000 of these fractures go undiagnosed and untreated due in part to a lack of awareness about osteoporosis and available treatment options.

The consequences of untreated fractures can be devastating. Once a patient suffers one vertebral compression fracture, the risk of suffering a second fracture increases five-fold. Left unattended, many fractures can result in an exaggerated rounded curvature of the spine, called kyphosis or dowager’s hump. This condition is painful and debilitating — making walking, eating, sleeping, and even breathing painful and difficult.

Performed using real-time X-ray, Balloon Kyphoplasty usually requires only two small incisions in the back for each fracture treated. The procedure generally takes less than one hour per fracture and has been performed under both local and general anesthesia.

“Veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center continue to benefit from the latest scientific advances in health care and the newest technology available on the market today,” said Meena S. Vij, M.D., Diagnostic and Therapeutic Care Line executive.

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