Vertebroplasty is the injection of liquid cement into a fractured vertebra. Once it has been injected it hardens and holds the bone together. The procedure works well to relieve pain and stabilize the weakened bone.
As your doctor told you, there are some potential problems with this operation. Cement leakage into the spinal canal or around the spinal nerves can cause nerve pain, numbness, and muscle weakness.
Studies have been done with cadavers (human body preserved for study after death) and computer simulations. Researchers have been able to calculate an average amount of cement needed. Factors to consider include size and condition of the bone.
Complication rates with vertebroplasty are fairly low (around one to two per cent). These rates go up in cancer patients treated for fracture from spinal metastases. The procedure requires destruction of as much of the tumor as possible first. Calculating the amount of cement needed is a little more complicated in those cases.