Kyphoplasty Surgery

By JOI Rehab Staff

Kyphoplasty: Overview

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgery used to treat a spinal compression fracture. Spinal compression fractures occur primarily in spinal vertebrae that have been weakened due to osteoporosis but can as happen due to a fall or something like coming down on your head. Compression fractures most commonly occur in the thoracic area of the spine but may also occur in the lumbar spine as well.

image of word kyphoplasty

What is Kyphoplasty?



Symptoms of a spinal compression fracture can vary. Usually, the first sign is severe back pain especially around the area where it can be very sensitive to touch. Sometimes if the area has collapsed, the vertebrae start(s) to compress one or more nerves, causing pain to radiate down the path of the nerve, such as into the arm or leg. Some other common symptoms of a compression fracture include:

  • Pain when twisting or bending.
  • Loss of height.
  • A hunched forward position called kyphosis to help with decreasing the pain.

What happens during Kyphoplasty Surgery?

First, a small incision is made in the back through which the doctor places a narrow tube under the guidance of fluoroscopy to guide it to the correct position. The tube creates a clear path through the back into the fractured area through the pedicle of the involved fractured vertebrae.

Using real-time X-ray images, the doctor inserts a special balloon through the tube and into the vertebrae, then gently inflates it. As the balloon inflates, it slowly elevates the fracture, returning the pieces to a more normal position. It also compacts the soft inner bone to create a cavity inside the vertebrae. The balloon is removed and the doctor uses instruments under low pressure to fill the cavity with a cement-like material called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). After being injected, the material hardens quickly, stabilizing the fractured bone/vertebrae.

Physical Therapy after Kyphoplasty Surgery 

Kyphoplasty surgery may cause issues with maintaining a sitting or standing posture due to pain. Additionally, some patients may lose muscle tone and strength in their back. Physical therapy is frequently helpful for patients following surgery for these reasons.

The main goal of physical therapy is to help you safely improve strength, flexibility, mobility, ROM (range of motion), and overall function. During your course of physical therapy, your therapist may use treatments options such as:

  • The use of heat and ice.
  • ROM and flexibility/mobility exercises.
  • Strengthening exercises to improve the strength of the spine and upper and lower extremities.

Your therapist will instruct you to maintain proper posture to reduce strain around the area of surgery. Remember, the main goal of physical therapy is for you to return back to your prior level of function. Your therapist will monitor your improvements as well as your limitations to adjust your course of treatment in a way to help achieve your treatment goals in a safe monitored setting. Each individual is different and each doctor is different with regards to physical therapy. Some doctors may prescribe physical therapy two or three times a week.  Sometimes this lasts two to six weeks or more depending on your follow-up visit with your doctor.


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