Dowagers hump: Vertebroplasty a non-surgical treatment for your back

Dowagers hump. Vertebroplasty is a non-surgical treatment for the pain of  fractures as a result of spinal Osteoporosis or cancer of the spine.

NOTE: If you were looking for a general information about back hump (or dowagers hump) go to:  back hump due to Osteoporosis 

But if you want to find out more about this particular treatment, read on!

You will find a general overview of the treatment as well as questions persons considering this treatment often have. (There are even videos to explain things.)  My hope is that this page will give you enough information for you to discuss this treatment with your health care provider.

This medical intervention for kyphosis was first used in France in 1984 to treat those with cancer and later it was extended to persons with spinal fractures from Osteoporosis.

How it all started

This medical intervention for kyphosis (back hump)  was first used in France in 1984 to treat those with cancer and later it was extended to persons with spinal fractures from Osteoporosis.

Then the procedure was introduced into the United States in 1994 and by 1997 it had become a common procedure for treating the pain of spinal fracture due to Osteoporosis. So the treatment it is usually of interest to persons with Osteoporosis of the spine both those with dowagers hump and those who have not yet developed the condition.

In 1998, Dr. Deramond and his colleagues reported that of 80 patients who had the procedure more than 90% reported "rapid and complete pain relief ". They followed these patients for some time and the pain relief continued. But......

It has been found that in addition to pain relief, those who had limited mobility often regained mobility after their Vertebroplasty treatment.

Also the procedure has been shown to stabilize the spine and prevent further collapse of vertebra and the development of Kyphosis or Dowagers hump. Thus Vertebroplasty has become one of the options for persons concerned about Osteoporosic spinal fracture and Dowagers hump.

Source: Society of Inteventional Raidology.

Frequently asked questions:

1. What is done during Vertebroplasty?
A radiologist injects a cement into the porous sections of the fractured vertebra under treatment. The radiologist uses a flouroscopy image screen for guidance during the procedure. When the cement dries it stablizes the fracture and strengthens the bone so it does not fracture again. (It is this latter benefit that helps ward off Kyphosis or Dowagers hump. )

2. Is this an operation? Will they use anesthesia?
Vertebroplasty is not surgery. It does not involve anesthesia.

3. Is it painful? Will I be sedated?
It is usual to use sedation during vertebroplasty so you do not feel pain. They usually insert a Foley catheter in your bladder for administering the sedative.

Also you will be connected to blood pressure and heart beat monitoring equipment.

4. How long will it take?
The procedure usually takes less than 2 hours for a single vertebra. Naturally it takes longer if more than one vertebra is being treated. Mmost of the time is taken by setting up and postioning the equipment. The cement itself dries in 20 - 30 minutes.

5. Will I be hospitalized?
Persons having vertebroplasty can usually travel a short distance a few hours after the procedure. You will not be able to drive but if you live nearby, you will be able to go home. If you live at some distance, you may be advised to stay at a nearby hotel or motel overnight.

The only persons usually hospitalized are those who are very frail, have other major health risks or have no one to help them at home. Do discuss this with your health care providere. You want to be sure that your situation will be a safe one.

6. How long will it take to recover?
It usually take a few days. Most patients can walk very soon after the procedure. You will probably be advised to follow bed rest for the first 24 hours.

During the next few days you may feel a bit sore at the point where the needle was inserted and your health care provider will offer advice about treating any such pain. You will be advised to resume activities gradually. Most patients report significant pain reduction within 24 hours and it often improves even more during the first week.

If the procedure reduces the risk of additional spinal fractures it should be helpful in reducing the risk of developing a more acute dowagers hump.

7. O.K. the positives are pain relief, a strengthening of my vertebra so it will not fracture in the future and a high likelihood that I will be more mobile but what are the risks?
Vertebroplasty is usually safe. However, like any medical procedure there can be things that can go wrong. Temple University Hospital reports than complications occur in less than 2% of cases.

  • Infection or bleeding is possible but Temple University Hospital reports that it has had no cases of infection or bleeding.
  • The orthopedic cement can leak out of the vetebra. This need not be serious. It could be serious if it moves toward the spinal cord. One could have neurological symptoms of tingling, numbing or paralysis [which is extremely rare.]
  • The procedure could cause a new fracture in either a rib or spine.


You should discuss any concerns you might have with your health care provider before scheduling Vertebroplasty.

8. Who is a candidate for vertebroplasty? Can anyone with pain from dowagers hump have Vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty Will be considered:

  • when the vertebra is not completely collapsed
  • the fracture is more than 2 weeks old but
  • is less than one year old and
  • is not yet fully healed.
  • the fracture is painful and has been unresponsive to conventional treatments

9. Will my insurance pay for this procedure?

As with all medical procedures it is important to check with your medical insurance company before you have the procedure. Most insurance companies will pay for Vertebroplasty.

Source: Temple Univesity Hospital was the source for some of the information used above.

But is the operation really the cure?

Amazing but true.  Do watch this video  from the Mayo Clinic showing that a 'sham vertebroplasty"  can be effective too  click:  Dowagers hump vertebroplasty

Read more at:  Dowagers hump