Vertebral augmentation is a confusing term. It is an outpatient procedure that is used to treat spinal fractures, called compression fractures, that often occur from osteoporosis and are painful in a lot of cases. The vertebral body, when fractured, will often lose height, and patients often have significant pain with decreased ability to function.
The term augmentation refers to injecting a substance into the fractured bone to augment the vertebra and alleviate pain. The original procedure that was invented and still performed is called a vertebroplasty. The vertebroplasty procedure injects bone cement under pressure which fills the crevices and interstices of the bone for stabilization and hence pain relief. The only problem is with the pressure of cement injection, the liquid cement may go where it's not supposed to prior to hardening.
The augmentation procedure differs a bit. Once the instrument is carefully placed into the compression fracture under xray guidance, a balloon is introduced into the fracture area and expanded. This creates a bony void as the fracture fragments are pushed away. Once accomplished, cement is then injected under low pressure into this bony void, stabilizing the fracture just like a vertebroplasty does. The vertebral augmentation procedure is often referred to as a kyphoplasty.
The procedure may or may not allow for some height to be restored to the fracture. This has not been borne out in the literature yet to matter for resultant clinical benefit. Both the vertebroplasty and vertebral augmentation procedures have been shown in the literature to both have excellent results with small risks (although these risks are very real).
Prior to undergoing the procedure, it may be prudent for a patient to try a spinal brace or other nonsurgical methods of pain relief.