South Denver Spine adds outpatient room for compression-correcting spine surgery
Whether it’s that guy from Notre Dame or their own beloved grandmother, many people remember someone with a hunchback. Years ago, medical treatment for the common cause of the deformity ̶ compression fractures ̶ lagged, making the curved-spine result more common. But today, these patients have treatment options, including a minor surgical procedure called kyphoplasty, something South Denver Spine patients can now have without even stepping foot inside a hospital.
Last July, South Denver Spine opened its outpatient procedure room for kyphoplasties, offering patients a fully-equipped, hospital-like procedural suite without the long admission times and costly overnight stays. More procedures, such as steroid injections, are now offered in the suite. Below, Dr. Zaki Ibrahim answers questions about compression fractures, which strike upwards of 750,000 Americans each year.
What is a compression fracture?
It’s when one of the marshmallow-shaped vertebrae flattens due to an external force. Imagine it as a soda can, and you crush it.
What is the osteoporosis connection?
Osteoporosis, or brittle-bone disease, makes fractures a major threat. Post-menopausal women are the most-affected by osteoporosis, and compression fractures are one of the most common fractures in this population. Studies indicate that one-quarter of post-menopausal women will sustain at least one of these fractures.
How do compression fractures occur?
For these women, something as trivial as bending over to tie their shoes, or simply turning over in bed, can result in a fracture. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that as many as two-thirds of compression fractures go undiagnosed.
How important is treatment?
Because the vertebrae are heavily loaded with nerve endings, compression fractures can be extremely painful and life-altering. When left untreated, they can also lead to more fractures and bigger health issues. Studies suggest a woman 65 years of age with one vertebral fracture has a one in four chance of another fracture during the next five years. With treatment, that chance is reduced to one in eight.
What is the treatment?
Compression fractures will heal with conservative treatment, but it can take a year or more. For patients who don’t respond well to rest, bracing and medications, or who want pain relief faster, kyphoplasty might be an option. Often done through one tiny incision, the procedure involves inserting and inflating a miniature balloon to restore height to the vertebra. The balloon is then extracted and surgical cement injected. It takes about 20 minutes per vertebra, and patients generally walk away with significant pain reduction and improved quality of life.
What else would you like to add?
Because of the strong connection to osteoporosis, any patient I see with a compression fracture is tested for the disease and treated as needed. My treatment is just one part of a bigger battle.
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