Purpose of Kyphoplasty

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Kyphoplasty (also known as “vertebral augmentation”) is a surgery to take on back pain related to damage and compression of vertebrae. It’s an approach considered in cases of fracture due to trauma or injury or in progressive cases of osteoporosis, in which bones weaken and become brittle.

The procedure involves locating the damaged vertebrae and site of compression, and, using imaging and specialized tools, injecting a specialized bone cement into the bone.

Though surgery like this is rarely the first-line of treatment in cases of progressive and chronic back pain, it’s highly effective in managing symptoms. If you’re considering this procedure, it’s important to understand as much as you can about why it’s done and who a good candidate is, as well as the other factors involved in making the decision to go ahead.

Lumbal spine - stock photo
 Jan-Otto/Getty Images

Diagnosis Related to Kyphoplasty

Primarily, kyphoplasty is indicated in progressive and chronic back pain associated with vertebral compression fracture, which is damage and compression of a vertebra.

As with most back surgeries, doctors will first attempt less-invasive measures, such as activity modification, wearing a back brace, or pain medications. If these don’t manage symptoms, then surgery may be indicated.

Primarily, vertebral compression fractures arise due to three sets of diagnoses.  

  • Osteoporosis: A majority of these surgeries are done in cases of osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones leading to fractures and damage. This condition is more prevalent and can become especially difficult to manage among older people, post-menopausal women, tobacco users, and those with arthritis. 
  • Spinal fracture: Kyphoplasty may also be indicated in cases of fracture in the spine due to trauma or a fall. The resulting impact on the spine can cause compression and damage to vertebrae, leading to progressive and chronic pain problems.
  • Malignant tumor: Cancerous tumors that form in the spine can also lead to vertebral compression fracture. Treatment often involves kyphoplasty to repair damaged vertebra, stabilize the area, and restore mobility.


Beyond diagnosis itself, several other factors are weighed to determine if kyphoplasty is an appropriate treatment. The criteria for the procedure include the following.

  • Severe pain: Chronic and severe pain is the primary indication for this procedure, and it can be especially instrumental in cases where other therapies are not likely to be effective. Notably, doctors will need to ensure that the pain is related to compression of the vertebrae and not caused by arthritis or other conditions.
  • Age over 70: Age impacts the bone’s ability to heal, so alternative and less-invasive treatments for fracture may not be promising. In these cases, this surgery may offer the best outcomes.
  • Limited mobility: This surgery will also be considered in cases where the back pain is significantly impacting range of motion or ability to walk or function independently.

Tests and Labs

Proper diagnosis and evaluation are essential for the success of all surgeries, and kyphoplasty is no different. As such, a number of tests and assessments may be performed.

  • Physical exam: Alongside standard assessments like heart rate and blood pressure, the doctor will also evaluate and manipulate the painful area.
  • Blood work: A standard aspect of surgery preparation and diagnosis is assessment of the blood, which can tell the doctor a great deal about overall health as well as the presence of any other conditions.
  • Spine X-ray: Doctors will also need to carefully evaluate the vertebral compression fracture and may use X-ray screening to do so. This approach may not be the best for people who are pregnant.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI relies on magnetic fields to produce real-time video imagery of the affected area.
  • Computerized tomography (CT): This is essentially a composite of X-ray images taken from multiple angles, essentially producing a three-dimensional representation of the affected area.
  • Radioisotope bone scan: This assessment of bone thickness and health relies on nuclear energy to detect abnormalities or other issues. In it, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the body and is tracked as it collects in the bones.

A Word From Verywell

While the prospect of back surgery is always likely to be intimidating, it’s important to remember that kyphoplasty is a well-established and long-standing approach. Nowadays, technological and technical advances have made this procedure safer and more effective than ever before.

Beyond having the right medical team on your side as well as the support of your loved ones, patient engagement and understanding are critical in promoting good outcomes. Be open and responsive with your healthcare providers, let them know if anything seems off, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Back pain is challenging—and even with surgery, managing it is an ongoing process. But there’s no denying that relief from this suffering will be worth the effort. 

3 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. Chandra R, Maingard J, Asadi H et al. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty for osteoporotic vertebral fractures: what are the latest data?AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2017;39(5):798-806. doi:10.3174/ajnr.a5458

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Kyphoplasty / vertebroplasty: spine surgery. 2016. 

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

By Mark Gurarie
Mark Gurarie is a freelance writer, editor, and adjunct lecturer of writing composition at George Washington University.