Kyphoplasty: How to Prepare

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Kyphoplasty (also known as “vertebral augmentation”) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that treats spine compression fracture associated with osteoporosis, tumor growth, or injury. Depending on the case, kyphoplasty can be performed while a patient is put to sleep, or while they're awake and under local anesthesia.

It’s typically an outpatient surgery. Most are able to go home the same day. An engaged and informed patient is essential to the success of the procedure. If you’re considering kyphoplasty or are scheduled to undergo it, you’ll need to understand what goes into preparing for this surgery.

Two doctors discussing patient X-ray and MRI scans, chest x-rays - stock photo
peakStock / Getty Images

Location

Kyphoplasty is not an open surgery and relies on minimally invasive techniques. The surgeon uses a specialized balloon to create a space in broken bone, then fills that cavity with bone cement to reinforce and repair the area.

This being the case, it’s performed in either a surgery ward or an outpatient center of a hospital or clinic. What’s the set-up like for this procedure? Though there may be some variations, expect to find the following.

  • Operating table: When the medical team is ready, you’ll be asked to lie face down on an operating table. If you’re receiving local anesthesia (in which you remain awake during the procedure), a numbing agent will be topically applied. You’ll be hooked to a machine that delivers drugs to put you to sleep in general anesthesia cases.
  • X-ray machine: Imaging is employed throughout the procedure to help guide the surgeon’s work. Typically, an approach called fluoroscopy is employed; this involves using an X-ray machine to visualize the fracture and the location of the instruments.
  • Trocar: This is a specialized needle that is guided by imaging to the problem area. The surgical balloon is positioned and inflated through this device. The balloon is then deflated and removed, and then bone cement is introduced through the trocar.
  • Bone cement: Though there are a few different materials used, most commonly a substance called polymethylmethacrylate, or PMMA, is used. Before this or an alternative hardens in the body, it looks like toothpaste.
  • Heart monitor: Particularly if you’re having the procedure done using general anesthesia, doctors often need to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure. This lets them know if anything is going wrong during the procedure.
  • Oxygen monitor: Keeping track of your oxygen levels and lung activity can be especially important when general anesthesia is employed.
  • Intravenous drip: You’ll likely be attached to a tube that delivers general anesthesia during surgery.

What to Wear

In a majority of cases, you’ll be allowed to recover at home, so typically you won’t need to prepare for a hospital stay (that said, this may be necessary in some cases). As you’ll be advised, however, you do have to think about what you can and cannot wear on the day of surgery. Here are some tips:

  • Wear looser clothes that are primarily comfortable to wear. While stitches aren’t usually necessary for kyphoplasty, you still don’t want to show up in tight-fitting clothes.
  • Remove nail polish or acrylic if you use them.
  • Skip the jewelry, since earrings, rings, necklaces, or other pieces might affect imaging or hinder the surgery’s progress.
  • Stay scent-free and do not use any perfumes or fragrances on the day of the procedure.

Food and Drink

Since kyphoplasty is not an open surgery, only a few dietary restrictions are usually required to prepare for it. As your doctor will tell you, however, certain precautions do need to be taken in the last six hours before the procedure. Typically, here’s what you can expect:

  • Don’t eat any kind of food
  • Avoid most drinks, including juices, coffee, cream, and milk
  • You can sip water or clear liquids when taking medications

Medications

In a consultation before kyphoplasty, you and the medical staff will go over what prescribed, over-the-counter, and herbal medications you’re taking. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to take any prescribed drugs as usual; however, some doctors may ask you to modify the dosage of or stop taking blood-thinning medications, such as:

It’s absolutely essential that you let your doctor know exactly what you’re taking. Come to your consultation prepared with a list of all prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, as well as any herbal supplements, you’re taking.

In addition, as you prepare for kyphoplasty, you may be advised to take daily high-dose calcium supplements and be prescribed bone-strengthening, anti-osteoporosis medications, including:

  • Actonel (risedronate)
  • Boniva (ibandronate)
  • Fosamax (alendronate)
  • Reclase (zoledronic acid)

While doctors usually won’t prescribe any special medications to prepare for surgery, on the day of surgery you may be given some drugs to aid the procedure. To help prevent infection, you may have to take (or will be administered) antibiotics, and, alongside the anesthesia, some people may require drugs to help manage nausea. 

What to Bring

While staying overnight at the hospital isn’t usually required for kyphoplasty, you’ll still need to make sure you have everything you need. What should you have along? What arrangements need to be made? There are a few.

  • A driver: You’ll likely feel woozy after surgery and be on medications to manage pain, so you must have someone with you to drive you home. If a loved one or friend is unable to do it, talk to the clinic or hospital staff to arrange for transportation.
  • Insurance information: In most cases, the clinic or hospital will already have this on file; however, it never hurts to have your insurance card on hand.
  • Toiletries: Particularly if an overnight stay is expected, it’s a good idea to have toiletry basics along. In some situations, your doctor may want to keep observing you for a day after surgery.
  • Medications you’re taking: As noted above, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you’re taking. Unless otherwise counseled, bring a list of any medications or supplements you’re taking along.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Kyphoplasty is rarely the first treatment of spine compression fracture, so you’ll likely already be undergoing some form of therapy in the time preparing for the procedure. In particular, physical therapy is typically indicated before and after your surgery as part of a broader regimen to manage existing pain and prevent it from getting worse.

Here’s what may be emphasized in this work.

  • Safe aerobic exercise: Good physical fitness will always improve surgery outcomes and can help reduce recovery time. You’ll be counseled on safe, gentle, but effective activities you can do to exercise your body in preparation. Aquatic exercises and walks are particularly popular.
  • Avoid dangerous activities: As you try to boost your health, make sure you aren’t putting your back in danger. Don’t do exercise that strains it, such as crunches or sit-ups.
  • Stretching: Physical therapists may also recommend stretches you can do to help with pain. Incorporating a regular routine based on their guidance can also help reduce post-operative recovery time.
  • Weight-bearing exercise: With the guidance of your physical therapist—and depending on your pain level—you may also want to do some weight-bearing exercises geared at strengthening the back.

A Word From Verywell

Back pain problems, such as those associated with spine compression, can be very challenging to manage, and kyphoplasty is just one of many approaches employed. As performed today, this procedure can be very effective in managing pain symptoms and restoring stability in the spine.

Despite some risks, it’s also very safe; according to the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, kyphoplasty for osteoporosis has only a 3% complication rate.

As effective and safe as it is—for as well-tolerated it is—it’s still not unusual to feel anxiety or apprehension about it. Be sure to carefully weigh your decisions and learn as much as you can about your options. For many, this procedure has led to less pain, improved mobility, and a better quality of life.      

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Columbia University Department of Radiology. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. 2020. 

  2. Columbia University Department of Neurological Surgery. Kyphoplasty. 2020. 

  3. Brown C, Wong D. Kyphoplasty for an osteoporosis fracture. Spine-Health. 2009. 

  4. Physiopedia. Kyphoplasty. 2020. 

  5. Radiological Society of North America, American College of Radiology. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. 2019. 

  6. American Academy of Neurological Surgeons. Vertebral compression fractures: symptoms, complications, diagnosis and treatments. 2020.