Osteoporosis, arthritis or cancer can lead to compression fractures in the vertebrae of the back, abbreviated as VCF. Kyphoplasty is a surgical procedure used to correct VCF and to give height back to the vertebrae. During a kyphoplasty, the damaged vertebrae are secured back into proper position with cement. This form of spinal surgery is minimally invasive, and according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), it is effective in 95 percent of patients. Recovery from a kyphoplasty is relatively quick, when compared to other more invasive types of back surgery.
Most people who have undergone kyphoplasty do not need to stay in the hospital for more than a few hours, according to the Internet Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Trauma. Recovery in a medical facility generally spans 2 to 4 hours in a recovery room, where medical professionals monitor the vital signs of the patient as the general anesthetic wears off. Patients who have complicated health issues may be required to stay overnight for additional monitoring. This is a decision made by the patient and doctor on an individual basis.
Recovery from a kyphoplasty includes some measure of discomfort, but most often the pain subsides within a couple of weeks postsurgery. The orthopedic surgeon who performed the procedure can prescribe pain medication for use in the initial stages of recovery, but over-the-counter pain medications may be effective as well. Soft-tissue injury that results from the surgery may continue to bother some people after a kyphoplasty, but it should diminish over time.
The majority of people who are recovering from kyphosplasty can return to most of their normal activities as soon as they feel able. Heavy lifting and driving are two restrictions placed on kyphoplasty patients. These restrictions allow the back to heal without undue strain. Heavy lifting should be avoided for as long as 6 weeks following the operation. Driving restrictions may vary according to how well a person who has had a kyphoplasty is healing.
Physical therapy may be part of the recovery process, especially if the kyphoplasty is the result of arthritis or other conditions that make holding a proper posture difficult. A physical therapist can help a kyphoplasty patient build up muscle that may have been lost prior to surgery. The therapist can develop an exercise program that protects against further complications due to osteoporosis and that can help control the loss of bone density. Kyphoplasty patients are encouraged to walk as part of their recovery,
Kyphoplasty is not without risks, and as with other forms of surgery, certain complications can hinder normal recovery. The cement used in the procedure can irritate the nerves in the spinal column and can cause symptoms such as tingling, pain or numbness in the extremities. In rare cases, cement leakage can cause the substance to travel to the lungs or become infected. Persistent pain that worsens after the procedure or other abnormal sensations should be reported to a physician.