Vertebroplasty is a treatment procedure developed by interventional radiologists to stabilize broken bones in the spine caused by osteoporosis. In the procedure, a needle about the size of a cocktail straw is inserted through the skin and into the crushed vertebrae. A surgical bone cement is injected into the bone. The cement hardens, stabilizes the bone and prevents further collapse. This stops the pain caused by bone rubbing against bone. Often, more than one crushed vertebrae can be treated in a single procedure.
Surgery is not required because the doctor is able to guide the needle to the right spot using special X-ray equipment. Vertebroplasty takes from one to two hours to perform depending on how many bones are treated. The procedure may be performed with a local anesthetic that numbs the area to be treated, or the patient may be given general anesthesia.
Vertebroplasty can be performed in an outpatient surgical center.
In the wide world of pain-relief treatment options, one that has been successful for many chronic back pain sufferers is spinal cord stimulation. In this therapy, electrical impulses are used to block pain from being perceived in the brain. Instead of pain, the patient feels a mild tingling sensation.
Spinal stimulation has provided pain relief in people suffering from multiple sclerosis, low back pain, amputated limbs, herpes, and spinal cord injury. Candidates for spinal stimulation may undergo a period of trial stimulation before conversion to an implanted stimulator. The placement of the electrode is performed under local anesthesia and allows testing of its effectiveness during the procedure. Electrodes are placed over the back of the spinal cord and connected to a battery-powered pulse generator device that is placed under the skin. Recipients of spinal cord stimulators are educated on the use and programming of their device.
A small wire (called a lead) connected to a power source is surgically implanted under the skin. Low-level electrical signals are then transmitted through the lead to the spinal cord or to specific nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. Using a magnetic remote control, you can turn the current on and off, or adjust the intensity. The sensations derived from the stimulator are different for everyone; however, most patients describe it as a pleasant tingling feeling.
There are two kinds of systems available in spinal cord stimulation. The more commonly used system is a fully implanted unit that utilizes a pulse generator and a non-rechargeable battery that must be replaced over time. The second system relies on radio frequency and includes a transmitter and an antenna, which are carried outside the body (much like a pager or cell phone) and a receiver, which is implanted inside the body. Your physician will help you determine which system is better for you based on your condition, your lifestyle, and how much electrical energy is required to provide you with adequate pain relief.