In many cases, vertebral fractures can be treated through conservative methods such as bed rest, a back brace or pain medication. However, patients with osteoporosis or whose fractures have caused severe, long-term pain may benefit from a minimally invasive procedure such as vertebroplasty to relieve symptoms. This procedure is also recommended for patients who are too weak to undergo spinal surgery, or have a malignant tumor within the spine that has caused vertebral damage. Vertebroplasty is most effective when performed on fractures that are less than six months old.
The needle is smaller in size than that used during a conventional epidural approach. The procedure is performed with the patient lying on their belly using fluoroscopic (real-time x-ray) guidance, which helps to prevent damage to the nerve root. A radiopaque dye is injected to enhance the fluoroscopic images and to confirm that the needle is properly placed (See Figure 2). This technique allows the glucocorticoid medicine to be placed closer to the irritated nerve root than using conventional interlaminar epidural approach. The exposure to radiation is minimal.