WebMD—August 9, 2010
Vertebroplasty -- a popular, minimally invasive treatment that uses injections of bone cement to seal up spinal vertebral fractures -- is safe, effective, and provides more back pain relief than conservative treatment in patients with acute vertebral fractures, according to new research published online in The Lancet.
Every year, 1.4 million people worldwide sustain vertebral compression fractures that cause pain and disability and affect their quality of life. Most of these fractures are due to osteoporosis, and having one fracture increases your risk of sustaining another. Enthusiasm for vertebroplasty was tempered when the findings of two widely publicized studies showed that it was no more effective than a dummy or sham procedure.
Patient Selection Key to Success
The new study findings mirror what doctors such as Joseph Lane, MD, director of the Metabolic Bone Disease Service and director of the Osteoporosis Prevention Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, see in their practice.
Calling the study "very impressive," Lane tells WebMD that "the significant pain relief and better function seen among people who had vertebroplasty are consistent with what clinicians who have been doing this procedure are seeing."
The older studies that showed no benefit of vertebroplasty over sham procedure had severe flaws in terms of the people who were included. Candidates for vertebroplasty need to have a high level of pain, he says. In the older studies, patients were not told what procedure they were given so they had to remain awake in a position that would not be possible for individuals in severe enough pain to benefit from vertebroplasty.
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