The patient is placed in the prone (laying face down) position with a pillow underneath the abdomen. The skin over the low back is sterilely prepared. The skin is then anesthetized. A thin needle is then advanced under x-ray guidance to the appropriate region immediately above the exiting nerve root. A small volume of contrast solution is injected to prove that the medication will flow along the course of the nerve root. Anesthetic solution, steroid solution, or a combination of both, are then injected, depending on the intent of the procedure. For diagnostic injections, the intent is to bring about some numbness, tingling and potentially a mild degree of weakness in the distribution of the nerve root to determine if the nerve root is causing an individual’s pain. Following the procedure, the patient is cared for in the recovery area for 20 minutes.
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.