What is Kyphoplasty?
They called him the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It certainly sounds more dramatic than calling him “the kyphosis sufferer of Notre Dame.” But kyphosis is the medical term for the abnormal curvature of the spine commonly called “hunchback” or “humpback.” Kyphosis is usually caused by vertebral compression fractures, which can occur as a result of osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones due to a loss in bone density. In this type of fracture the vertebrae collapses, with the anterior, or front of the vertebrae exhibiting more compression than the posterior, or back portion. As a result, the spinal column loses more length at the front than the back of the spine, producing the characteristic “hump” on the upper back. Symptoms of vertebral compression fractures include severe back pain, restricted ability to engage in daily activities and functions, and reduced mobility. Kyphosis can also lead to a reduced stature and overall loss of body height.
Not much could be done about kyphosis in Quasimodo’s time, but today a minimally invasive surgery procedure, kyphoplasty, can treat symptoms of vertebral compression fractures safely and effectively. Developed in the mid 1990s, the kyphoplasty procedure is most beneficial for individuals with recent vertebral compression fractures. When performing kyphoplasty surgery, a surgeon makes a small incision in the back through which a small metal guide tube is inserted. It is directed and positioned into the damaged vertebra. A specialized kyphoplasty balloon is then inserted into the fractured vertebrae through this metal tube and once positioned, it is gently inflated. As the balloon inflates, the fractured pieces of the vertebra are repositioned, restoring the proper vertebral height. The balloon is removed and then polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), a cement-like material, is injected directly into the fractured bone, stabilizing the fracture and often providing immediate pain relief.
If Quasimodo were seeking help for his kyphosis today, we’d advise him to seek out the most qualified medical specialists possible, and to carefully check their credentials to ensure that his treatment would have the best possible outcome. That’s why here at New Jersey Spine Specialists with offices in Summit and Montclair, our physicians are board certified orthopedic spine surgeons who have completed additional fellowship training.