Vertebroplasty is a new procedure that allows doctors to literally "cement" spinal compression fracture, relieving pain and stabilizing the back bone in people who suffer from collapsed vertebra. The procedure, is called vertebroplasty and involves injecting bone cement into fractured or collapsed vertebra of the spine. Until now, the main treatments for compressed vertebra has been pain relievers, back braces and bed rest.
Vertebroplasty is a relatively simple outpatient or one over night stay procedure that offers pain relief in a significant portion of patients with painful compression fractures. During vertebroplasty, the doctor uses x-ray cameras to guide a needle into the injured vertebra. Through the needle, the doctor injects a cement-like mixture that hardens in less then one hour, sealing and stabilizing fractures and preventing further compression.
Early research on vertebroplasty is encouraging. In one study, approximately 70% of those who underwent the procedure reported complete or marked pain relief up to 15 months, which was the length of the follow-up study. Vertebroplasty works best on large vertebra in the mid to lower spine. Patients who have suffered recent compression fractures and have prolonged, severe pain despite several weeks of conservative therapy are good candidates. People who have compression fracture resulting from tumors of the spine or long term use of steroids may also qualify.
Below are three images from a patient who suffered compression fractures of L1, L2, and L3. In February of 1998 he had only minimal wedging of these vertebral bodies (Fig. 1). In December 2000 he had more pain and radiograph showed compression fractures of L1, L2 and L3 (Fig. 2). These were treated with vertebroplasty (Fig. 3).
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