Finding Relief From Excruciating Spine Fractures Thanks to Balloons and Cement.

Courtesy Medtronic

Sharon first noticed the pain in her back one day. “I thought I had a sprain, you know, ‘It’ll go away,’” says the 72 year old grandmother from Fort Worth. Then one night she rolled over in bed and felt a pop. “I waited a while. I just thought the pain would go away, and it didn’t.”

Sharon eventually went to the emergency room at Harris Methodist Hospital, and doctors did some tests that found the cause of her pain: multiple myeloma, a type cancer that attacks the bone marrow. She had pathological fractures in two of the vertebral bodies of her spine – in other words, a broken back. Sharon was treated for her cancer with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and she took opiod pain medication for the lingering pain in her back.

“I still had the pain. It just didn’t go away,” she recalls. “There was a lot I couldn’t do. Just bending or rolling over in bed was a major ordeal.” Once Sharon was in remission, doctors referred Sharon to Dr. Irfan Ali in Flower Mound. Ali recommended a minimally invasive surgical procedure called Balloon Kyphoplasty to repair her damaged spine and relieve her pain.

Balloon Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure for the treatment of spinal fractures due to osteoporosis, cancer, or non-cancerous tumors. Guided by live imaging, Ali created two tiny openings in Sharon’s back at each fractured level and used a needle to insert a tiny balloon into the damaged vertebra. He then inflated the balloon to restore the original height of the vertebrae. Finally, he injected acrylic bone cement into the cavity left by the balloon, creating an internal cast to repair the fractures.

After the procedure, which takes typically less than an hour, Sharon was able to leave the hospital and go home the same day. “She’s doing great,” Ali says. Sharon says she no longer takes pain medication for her back. “By the next day, where the fracture was, I could tell a difference there. It was just a true blessing.” She was even able to attend her grandson’s junior high football game the night of the procedure.

“I asked Dr. Ali, and he said if I felt like it, I could,” Sharon says. “So I went home and changed my clothes and went to the football game that night. As a matter of fact, I usually would try to find a place down low in the stadium so I wouldn’t have to climb steps, but this time I went all the way up and sat halfway up in the bleachers, so that was really nice!”

Medtronic developed balloon kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive procedure that reduces and stabilizes VCF related to osteoporosis, cancer or 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.

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, stroke, and embolism. 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, and/or heart.

Talk to your doctor about both benefits and risks of this procedure. A prescription is required. Results may vary. For more information, please call Medtronic at 1-763-505-5000 and/or consult Medtronic’s website at or

The following testimonial contains the opinions of and personal surgical techniques practiced by Irfan Ali, M.D. The opinions and techniques presented herein are for information purposes only and the decision of which techniques to use in a particular surgical application should be made by the surgeon based on the individual facts and circumstances of the patient and previous surgical experience.