Kyphoplasty: Recovery


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Jul 07, 2023

Kyphoplasty: Recovery

A surgery for spine compression fracture, kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive outpatient surgery technique that repairs and reinforces damaged and collapsed vertebrae. Though pain relief is rapid

A surgery for spine compression fracture, kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive outpatient surgery technique that repairs and reinforces damaged and collapsed vertebrae. Though pain relief is rapid after the procedure, complete recovery is expected within four to six weeks, though most are able to return to work significantly sooner.

That said, the post-operative period does entail follow-up and physical therapy in many cases, with patients needing to actively participate in their recovery. If you’re considering kyphoplasty or are planning on having it done, it’s important to understand what life looks like afterward.

Because kyphoplasty isn’t an open procedure, patients usually don’t need to spend the night in the hospital. As with any surgery, follow-up is important as healthcare providers need to ensure that symptoms have been managed and that there are no complications.

To ensure that the vertebra or vertebrae are repaired, there are a couple of steps to follow up:

Call 911 if you feel paralysis in your legs, severe chest pain, and disrupted breath, as well as a loss of bladder control.

Communication is absolutely critical as you recover, so don’t hesitate to report any issues to or ask questions of your healthcare providers.

Given that kyphoplasty takes on vertical spine fractures (usually associated with osteoporosis, a progressive weakening of the bones), it stands to reason that there will be physical limitations necessary as the body recovers. It’s important to get a full sense of what you can and cannot do as you get back on track. Typically, the progression of recovery looks like this:

Kyphoplasty is usually an outpatient procedure. A couple of hours after surgery, most patients are able to walk. However, within the first day of surgery, you should focus on rest and avoid lifting anything that causes any sort of strain, such as groceries, milk jugs, or heavy boxes. That said, there won’t be any dietary restrictions after surgery.

Most are able to resume normal behaviors and activities about a day after the procedure, though they may still feel some residual soreness. Pain relief is expected within two to three days of the procedure, and, at least for work that doesn’t involve heavy-lifting or strain, you should be able to get back to work.

During this time, however, you should be careful about the exercises you do and follow any physical therapy guidance you’ve received. Throughout recovery, you’ll likely be taking special vitamins and minerals to promote bone health.

Barring complications or any other issues, complete and total recovery is expected at four to six weeks. At this point, you can resume strenuous exercise and will largely be free to be as active as you’d like.

However, back pain management can be an extensive management, and you’ll need to keep up with exercises to help prevent the return of any pain.

Recovery from kyphoplasty varies from person to person, so make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about what this will look like for you.

During recovery from kyphoplasty, there can be challenges on two fronts: pain management and mental health. Primarily, these are taken on with medications, icing, physical therapy, and counseling.

Soreness, pain, and discomfort are common after kyphoplasty, and your healthcare provider will go over how best to take this on. You may be prescribed stronger painkillers or be encouraged to use prescription-strength or over the counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or others. Make sure to stick carefully to your healthcare provider’s plan and be mindful of any side-effects.

Especially for the 48 to 72 hours after surgery, if you feel soreness at the incision site, you should ice the area every one to two hours for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. This aims to reduce inflammation.

Your healthcare provider may recommend you undergo both pre and post-operative physical therapy (PT) sessions to help restore strength and mobility, while managing pain. You may have to go in for multiple visits with a physical therapist, who’ll also teach you exercises you can do to promote your recovery.

Adherence to PT has been shown to maximize the positive effects of kyphoplasty.

While kyphoplasty is associated with improved quality-of-life, back pain problems, especially if they’re challenging, can significantly impact mental health.

Following surgery, some may find themselves depressed and anxious, so it’s worth considering seeking out counseling or finding support groups for those with back pain. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re feeling mentally unwell following surgery.

Incisions for kyphoplasty are very small as they only need to allow a specialized syringe (called a trocar) to pass through back muscle to get to the damaged vertebrae. Stitches aren’t usually required after this surgery; however, you do still need to be careful with the incision site. What should you keep in mind? Here are some quick guidelines:

In a sense, the period of recovery after kyphoplasty is just as crucial to success as the procedure itself. And since this isn’t an open surgery, this time goes by relatively quickly, and the risk of complications is lower than other back procedures.

Care is needed during this time; however, given the high rate of success this operation has in managing back pain problems associated with vertical spine fracture, this effort is likely to pay off. While the path to complete recovery may be lengthy, there’s no doubt that the prospect of being free of back pain and discomfort is worth fighting for.

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

Columbia University Department of Neurological Surgery. Kyphoplasty. 2020.

Ortho Rhode Island. Kyphoplasty discharge instructions.

Healthwise Staff, Government of Alberta. Kyphoplasty: what to expect at home. 2019.

Physiopedia. Kyphoplasty. 2020.

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

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