couple outside dancing webNancy is one of more than 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, a disease marked by porous, brittle bones that can break more easily than healthy bones. Women over 50 have a 1-in-2 chance of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis.1 Osteoporosis is sometimes called a “silent disease” because it has no symptoms before a fracture occurs.2 That’s what happened to Nancy.


“I was walking in a parking lot, and I stepped on something that tripped me up,” says Nancy, 73, “and I fell very hard.” The fall caused Nancy severe pain. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do anything, I was basically house-bound and couch-bound, I couldn’t drive, nothing.” Nancy says she finally broke down and told her husband to take her to the emergency room. “I said, ‘Please, X-ray my spine!’”

The ER doctors found the source of Nancy’s unrelenting pain: a compression fracture of her T9 vertebra — in other words, a broken back. Nancy went to see an interventional radiologist who ordered an MRI to get a better look at Nancy’s spine. Because her fracture was still acute and her pain was a 10 out of 10, the radiologist recommended she undergo Balloon Kyphoplasty (BKP). Balloon Kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive procedure for the treatment of spinal fractures due to osteoporosis, cancer, and non-cancerous tumors. The radiologist punctured Nancy’s back with a needle to insert a tiny balloon into the damaged vertebra. He then used a pump to inflate the balloon and restore the original height of the vertebra. Then, he injected acrylic bone cement into the balloon to create an internal cast to repair the fracture. The procedure takes only about an hour. It typically requires only local anesthesia, and it’s often done on an outpatient basis in a clinic or office.

Medtronic developed Balloon Kyphoplasty, a minimally- invasive procedure that reduces and stabilizes VCF related to osteoporosis, cancer, and non-cancerous tumors. Since the initial technology launched in 1998, Medtronic has developed better balloons, an improved cement delivery system, and added access tools shown to reduce hand radiation exposure for the surgeon.

Over the years, studies comparing Balloon Kyphoplasty to non-surgical management have shown Balloon kyphoplasty produced better pain relief and quality of life for patients with acute VCF, compared to patients treated with non-surgical management. 3–5

Although the complication rate for BKP is low, as with most surgical procedures, serious adverse events, some of which can be fatal, can occur, including heart attack, cardiac arrest (heart stops beating), stroke, and embolism (blood, fat, or cement that migrates to the lungs or heart). Other risks include infection; leakage of bone cement into the muscle and tissue surrounding the spinal cord, and nerve injury that can, in rare instances, cause paralysis; leakage of bone cement into the blood vessels resulting in damage to the blood vessels, lungs, or heart.

Nancy had a dramatic improvement in her pain. “I was able to exercise in the pool, and I was able to drive again and resume my normal activities: grocery shop, the usual. I would absolutely recommend Balloon Kyphoplasty to someone who needs it.”


1US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. Bone health and osteoporosis: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US GPO; 2004, p. 436. Available from:

2National Osteoporosis Website. what-is-osteoporosis/

3Berenson J, Pflugmacher R, Jarzem P, et al. Balloon kyphoplasty versus non-surgical fracture management for treatment of painful vertebral body compression fractures in patients with cancer: a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Oncol. 2011 Mar;12(3):225-35.

4Boonen S, Van Meirhaeghe J, Bastian L, et al. Balloon kyphoplasty for the treatment of acute vertebral compression fractures: 2-year results from a randomized trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2011;26(7):1627-1637.

5Van Meirhaeghe J, Bastian L, Boonen S, et al. A randomized trial of balloon kyphoplasty and nonsurgical management for treating acute vertebral compression fractures: vertebral body kyphosis correction and surgical parameters. Spine. 2013;38(12),971-983.

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