Lakeland Health Care

Patient Stories

Celebrating Survivors

Age Diagnosed
Kyphoplasty for Compression Fractures in the Spine
Feature Story

Robert Barnes, 80, is often considered the busiest man in his Buchanan neighborhood. He helps his elderly neighbors with their trash, gardening, and anything else that they need. Earlier this year, however, he was unable to lift or move much, let alone walk.

In February, Robert slipped on some ice as he was walking to his car after a day of helping renovate his granddaughter’s home.

“I was done for the evening and was ready to go home. It was icy and I fell right on my back,” said Robert. His son-in-law, who was inside, saw his fall and helped him up and into his car. Robert thought he would be alright and drove the several blocks to his home.

“I figured I had pulled a muscle,” explained Robert. His pain became worse and, according to Robert, on a scale of one to 10, it was a 12. Unable to sleep in his own bed, he sat in his chair with a heating pad, which provided little relief.

Several days later he went to his family physician in Buchanan who diagnosed Robert with a broken back and several broken ribs. His doctor referred him to the Interventional Radiology Clinic at Lakeland HealthCare in St. Joseph.

A CAT scan revealed that Robert had a compression fracture in his lower spine. Because of the fracture, a disc had collapsed.

According to Joel VanderLugt, MD, Interventional Radiologist at Lakeland HealthCare, “Compression fractures in the spine can cause pain in the middle or lower back, lack of mobility, and -- if left untreated -- a curving of the spine that causes a loss of height.”

Dr. VanderLugt performed a balloon kyphoplasty on Robert at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph. During a kyphoplasty, the doctor uses real-time imaging to guide a hollow needle into the collapsed vertebra. A device similar to a balloon is inserted into the vertebra and can restore some of the height loss. Special bone cement is used to fill the vertebral cavity, preserving the improved vertebral body shape and height.

“The whole thing lasted less than an hour,” said Robert. “My pain went from a 12 to a 2. I couldn’t believe the difference. The procedure itself was miraculous. Everyone at Lakeland was wonderful. They were concerned about my comfort and talked to me as a person, not a number.”

After his kyphoplasty, Robert was able to sleep in his own bed. Four days later he was able to walk a lot easier. Today, Robert is pain-free.

“I cannot thank the staff at Lakeland HealthCare enough,” said Robert. “They were able to give me my life back through the surgery. I am amazed at how quickly I’ve recovered. It’s as if my fall never happened.”

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