Kyphosis results in a backward-curving spine, often associated with osteoporosis. While some rounding is normal, a rounding of 40 - 45 degrees is known as kyphosis. Compression fractures occur when loss of bone tissue causes the vertebrae to collapse, becoming wedge-shaped instead of rectangular.
The thoracic spine consists of the middle 12 vertebrae, which connect to your ribs. Those with kyphosis, may have normal looking spines or may develop a hump. Kyphosis may affect people of all ages.
It may occur as a result of developmental problems; degenerative diseases, such as spinal arthritis; osteoporosis with compression fractures of the vertebrae; or trauma to the spine. It can affect children, adolescents and adults.
Kyphosis may be mild and cause few problems. Or it may be severe and affect the lungs, nerves and other tissues and organs, causing pain and other problems.
Those who suffer from kyphosis often experience pain and are limited in daily activities.
Evaluation of back and neck pain requires a physician experienced in diagnosing spinal conditions. The work-up begins with a detailed history and physical examination. Your medical history helps your doctor understand your back and neck pain, and the influence of your lifestyle in contributing to your pain.
During your physical exam, your neurosurgeon examines your spine and neurological system to pinpoint the source of pain. Simple tests for flexibility and muscle strength may also be conducted. Diagnostic tests may be ordered to confirm the location and source of your pain. Common tests that may be conducted include the following.
Forward bend test
Your doctor may request that you bend forward from the waist while he or she views the spine from the side. The rounding of the upper back may become more obvious in the forward position.
Neurological functions test
While it is rare for neurological changes to accompany kyphosis, your doctor may look for indications of weakness, changes in sensation or paralysis below the site of the kyphosis.
An X-ray may be used to confirm the kyphosis, determine the degree of curvature and detect any deformity of the vertebrae. This can be helpful in determining the type of kyphosis. Indications of a wedge-shaped vertebra or other features on X-ray differentiate between postural kyphosis and Scheuermann's kyphosis. X-rays may show arthritic changes in the spine, which may contribute to an increase in pain.
Pulmonary function tests
These tests may be used to measure breathing to assess any breathing difficulty caused by the kyphosis.
Kyphosis treatment depends on the cause of the curvature and its effects. Treatment may range from physical therapy to braces to surgery. Kyphoplasty, or Balloon Kyphoplasty is a relatively new procedure that corrects kyphosis. Kyphoplasty has the following benefits:
During kyphoplasty, under general or local anesthesia, the surgeon makes a one-half inch incision and creates a very small pathway into fractured vertebra. A bone balloon is then inserted through the pathway and inflated, raising the collapsed vertebra.
After it is removed, the balloon leaves a space inside the bone. Each space is filled with material, called an internal cast, similar to the paste dentists use to create dentures, to support the bone. Each fracture takes approximately one hour to repair. Nearly 70% to 90% of patients who undergo kyphoplasty experience immediate relief and may quickly return to daily activities.