Cement helps Skowhegan woman heal from spinal fracture

Balloon Kyphoplasty offers relief from pain and repair to spine
Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 2:12 PM EDT
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(WABI) - Osteoporosis affects so many Maine women.

It’s referred to as a silent disease because often, there are no symptoms until a bone breaks.

For Karen Lake, it was a fracture in her spine.

Joy Hollowell tells us how cement helped the Skowhegan woman find relief as well as recovery.


“I enjoy nature, I enjoy animals and I want to be out and doing things, not lying in bed all day.”

Nine months ago, that is exactly what Lake was doing. In December, Lake fell while out walking a puppy she was petting-sitting.

“He saw something off leash and he pulled,” explains Lake. “I wasn’t ready for it and down I went, face first. I could feel something in my back give, you know like- not right. And I tried to get up and it was really painful.”

An MRI showed the Skowhegan woman had a crushed vertebra.

“They kept saying- Oh, just rest and it will get better,” said Lake. “And I did. I rested for about a month and it was getting worse not better.”

Lake decided to hop on her computer and research other options. She read about something called Balloon Kyphoplasty through Medtronic.

A tiny balloon is inserted into the backbone at the point of the fracture. It’s inflated to restore the vertebrae’s height lost during the fracture. An acrylic bone cement is then injected, creating a sort of internal cast.

“It’s basically like toothpaste,” explains Dr. Eric Wise with Northeast Pain Management in Bangor. “And then within 15 minutes, it’s harder than our natural bone.”

Northeast Pain management has been using Balloon Kyphoplasty for more than a decade.

“These patients are in some of the most severe pain of any of the patients that we see,” says Wise. “But at the same time, they respond sometimes more quickly than anything else.”

The out patient procedure lasts 30-45 minutes, according to Wise. There are some restrictions of activity after, to allow for the bone around the cement to heal.

“I went home and I kept waiting every day- Oh no, it’s not ok today,” says Lake. “By the 4th day though, I got out of bed and it’s like- Oh my goodness, I can walk, I don’t have to hold onto walls.”

Not everyone with a compression fracture is a candidate. According to Dr. wise, the bone breakage must have happened somewhat recently with severe pain resulting from it. An MRI is done to confirm this.

“Most compression fractures will only produce mild to moderate pain and will heal on their own. We will also have patients come in years later who maybe just have chronic pain for another reason. And an old compression fracture was found on the x-ray. An old compression fracture that has healed is almost certainly not causing pain,” Wise explains.

Lake did not realize she had osteoporosis until fracturing her spine. Now she’s taking proactive steps to avoid another injury.

“I may be in my 70s but I don’t want to be bedridden for the rest of my life,” says Lake. “I enjoy things too much.”

“Unfortunately, once you have one compression fracture, your risk of another compression fracture goes up exponentially,” says Wise. “Compression fractures are almost always the case of osteoporosis.”


According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about eight million women in our country have osteoporosis.

Approximately one in two women over age 50 will break a bone because of the disease.

A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

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