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Vertebral compression fractures

Vertebral Compression Fracture

Fragility fractures are a serious and growing problem for older adults. In fact, 50% of women and 25% of men will have an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.1Compression fractures of the spine are the most common with an estimated 700,000 such fractures reported nationally each year.2

In a spinal compression fracture, the bone tissue of the vertebral body collapses. This condition is commonly caused by osteoporosis or sometimes kyphosis, a degenerative disease. Vertebral compression fractures may also be attributed to a type of cancer called multiple myeloma, as well as vertebral tumor from metastatic bone disease. This progressive decline in health is often called the "downward spiral." Since one fracture can lead to another, it is important that VCFs be diagnosed and treated early.

If you experience sudden and severe back pain, height loss, have limited ability to twist and bend, and/or develop a deformity in the spine, it is important that you talk to your doctor. There are treatments – such as vertebroplasty and vertebral augmentation (also known as balloon kyphoplasty) – that can repair spinal fractures, relieve pain, and restore your quality of life.

Symptoms or consequences

It is not uncommon to be unaware that you have fractured a vertebra. In many cases, a VCF can occur with no pain.1 Typically however, VCFs are indicated by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden onset of back pain
  • Back pain that worsens while standing or walking
  • Limited spinal mobility
  • Height loss, deformity and/or disability

Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) are usually followed by sharp back pain, and may lead to:

  • Chronic pain
  • Kyphosis (commonly referred to as a dowager's hump)
  • Loss of height
  • Crowding of internal organs


Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) are common, especially in older adults. They affect approximately 25% of all postmenopausal women in the United States and their occurrence steadily increases with advancing age, reaching 40% in women 80 years and older.3 Although less common in older men, compression fractures are also a major health concern in this group. Because those 65 years and older are the fastest growing population segment in the U.S., the occurrence of this age-specific fracture is likely to escalate4.

VCFs have a substantial and negative impact on the quality of life and day-to-day functioning of those afflicted. Acute and chronic pain in the elderly is commonly attributed to vertebral compression fractures, often leading to further health deterioration or the "downward spiral" and a loss of independence. Because there is a substantial risk of subsequent fractures of all types in persons who have had a vertebral compression fracture, it is important that VCFs be diagnosed and treated early.

Patients with VCFs who do not respond to conservative treatment or whose pain is unbearable may be helped by vertebral augmentation. Vertebral augmentation (also known as balloon kyphoplasty) is a minimally invasive procedure proven to significantly relieve pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life without open surgery.56789101112 Vertebral augmentation utilizing Stryker’s iVAS Inflatable Vertebral Augmentation System is a refinement of vertebroplasty. During this minimally invasive procedure, one or two balloons are used to create a void or cavity in the collapsed vertebra into which an injected material—either bone cement or Cortoss bone augmentation material—is introduced.

Using fluoroscopic visualization, balloon catheters are advanced into the collapsed vertebra utilizing a transpedicular or bipedicular approach. The balloon(s) are then inflated, creating a central void and compacting the remaining trabeculae to the periphery. The balloon catheter(s) are then deflated and withdrawn, and specially formulated acrylic bone cement is injected into the void(s) created by the inflated balloon(s). Once set, the cement forms an internal cast that helps stabilize the bone, thereby decreasing or eliminating pain, increasing mobility and improving quality of life.5671314