Fixing spinal fractures without surgery

Imagine constant pain so severe it changes your life. That is what many people who have fractured a vertebrae live with every day. From car wrecks, to osteoporosis to cancer, the fractures can be caused by many things, but there wasn't much out there to help people. A new procedure is allowing doctors to relieve back pain almost instantly.

Running, fishing, raising horses - nothing could stop the foster mom of six.

"I didn't have any worries about health," said spinal cord injury patient Mary Ann Weyer.

Then, one day, she said, "it happened so fast. Bing. Bing. Bing. One day I was healthy. The next, I was in the hospital, the next day I had broken bones."

Within six months, Mary Ann Weyer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer where plasma cells in the blood grow rapidly and cause bone destruction. Radiation sent her cancer into remission, but she was left with six spinal fractures.

"I had no idea what people went through when they had pain, until it happened to me,” said Weyer. “For me the cancer wasn't scary. It was the idea of not being able to take care of myself and being incapacitated."

Interventional neuroradiologist, doctor Marcel Maya at Cedars Sinai uses balloon kyphoplasty to fix the problem.

"This is an internal cast, where we put cement inside the fractured spine," said Maya.

It is non-surgical, so there are no incisions. Instead, four needles are inserted into Mary Ann's back, creating a small pathway to the fractures. Orthopedic balloons are inserted and inflated.

"You can see the balloon getting thicker," said Maya.

Then the cement fills the opened area.

"You see the cement filling the spine and restoring the normal height and strength," said Maya.

Two hours after the procedure, Mary Ann's on her way home, scar free, pain free and ready to live again.

"To not have pain, is to have life,” said Weyer.

Besides this treatment, there is little help for people with spinal fractures. They are basically told to go home and rest. Recovery can take one to three months. With balloon kyphoplasty, recovery is usually less than ten days.

BACKGROUND: Multiple myeloma is cancer that starts in the plasma cells in bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found inside most bones. It helps make blood cells. Plasma cells help your body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies. In multiple myeloma, plasma cells grow out of control in the bone marrow and form tumors in the areas of solid bone. The growth of these bone tumors makes it harder for the bone marrow to make healthy blood cells and platelets.
SYMPTOMS: Multiple myeloma causes a low red blood cell count. This makes you more likely to get infections and have abnormal bleeding. If the bones in the spine are affected, it can put pressure on the nerves, resulting in numbness or weakness of the arms or legs. Other symptoms include bleeding problems, brittle bones that are more likely to break, fatigue due to anemia, fevers without any other cause, and shortness of breath due to anemia. (Source:
TREATMENT: If you have multiple myeloma and aren't experiencing any symptoms, you may not need treatment. However, your doctor will regularly monitor your condition for signs the disease is progressing. If it is, you may need treatment. ( Source: The MayoClinic)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Balloon Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can repair spinal fractures. It takes about an hour per fracture level to treat a fracture with Balloon Kyphoplasty, and the procedure can be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Balloon Kyphoplasty can reduce or eliminate your back pain from a spinal fracture, as well as restore vertebral body height and proper alignment of your spine. Early and effective treatment (fixing the broken bone) may reduce the consequences of spinal fractures, especially those associated with other treatments, for example, prolonged bed rest or use of analgesics. Other benefits include sustained improvement in mobility, improvement in ability to perform activities of daily living, and improved quality of life. Although the complication rate with Baloon Kyphoplasty have been demonstrated to be low, as with most surgical procedures there are risks associated with the procedure, including serious complications. (Source:

For more information, please contact:

Nilou Salimpour
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email:
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 168030416 -
Gray Television, Inc.