Historically, there wasn't much doctors could do for patients with spine fractures. They would send them home in a body brace with lots of pain medicine. It could take weeks or months of bed rest for them to heal. And in the meantime, another bone could break.
But now, thanks to something called Kyphoplasty, they're feeling better before they ever leave the hospital.
Bill Ingram used to love camping and fishing with his wife, Elnora, down in Texas and meeting friends from all over the world, some of whom just sent him cards for his 86th birthday. But those days came to an end when osteoporosis caused fractures in his spine.
Ingram says, "You start to get out of bed, and it takes you 30 minutes to get out of bed and you're damn near crying when it's over. Then, you think I really ought to do something."
He went to see Dr. Robert Vogt an intervention radiologist.
Vertebral compression fractures lead to a curvature of the spine that compresses the stomach, making patients feel fuller faster.
Dr. Vogt says, "So they don't want to eat, and then, they become malnourished, and then, their bones get weaker and their bodies get weaker. And it's just a downward spiral."
In a procedure called Kyphoplasty, Dr. Vogt makes two small incisions and inserts a tube into the spine through which he sticks a tiny balloon.
"You put that in there, and you inflate the balloon. You're creating a cavity on both sides, and once you're done with that, you deflate the balloons, and then you fill those cavities up with the cement," explains Dr. Vogt.
The balloon restores the vertebra's height and shape and the cement makes it stronger, essentially making patients like Bill stronger, too.
He says, "When you come out, your problem is over. Your pain is over, just like that!"
It may not be the same as camping and fishing, but Bill's just happy to be getting out of bed and getting outside without being in pain.
There are risks associated with the procedure - infection, bleeding or the leaking of cement. But luckily, those are minimal. More than 95 percent of patients describe their treatment as successful.