In osteoporosis patients with spinal fractures, vertebroplasty—a procedure in which bone cement is injected into the area of a spinal fracture-provides significant pain relief and helps decrease disability, according to a new study.
Osteoporosis affects about 10 million Americans and causes about 15 million vertebral fractures each year, according to the US National Institutes of Health, Multiple vertebral fractures can cause chronic pain, disability, loss of independence, stooped posture and compression of the lungs and stomach.
Vertebroplasty involves injection of medical-grade bone cement into a fractured vertebra to shore up the fracture and provide pain relief. It's used to treat painful vertebral compression fractures that don't respond to conventional medical therapy with analgesics or narcotics.
The study followed 884 patients for five years who were assessed before and after vertebroplasty. Their average pre-treatment pain score on an 11-point scale decreased from 79 before treatment to an average of 1.3 after treatment.
The patients' ability to manage everyday tasks such as washing and dressing was measured using the Oswestry Disability Questionnaire. The patients' scores went from an average of 69.3% a month before treatment to 18.8% a month after treatment, reflecting a lower level of disability.
"These data provide good news for physicians and osteoporosis patients. Many osteoporosis patients with compression fractures are in terrible pain and have a greatly diminished ability to perform basic daily activities, such as dressing themselves," said Giovanni C. Anselmetti, MD, an interventional radiologist at the Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment in Turin, Italy.
The study also found that vertebroplasty did not increase the risk for fracture in nearby
"Osteoporosis patients remain susceptible to new fractures, which often occur in the contiguous vertebra to an existing fracture. Our large-scale study shows that vertebroplasty does not increase the risk of fracture in the level contiguous to previously treated vertebra and that these new fractures occur at the same rate as they would in osteoporosis patients who did not have vertebroplasty," Dr. Anselmetti said.
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