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Vertebroplasty: Minor Surgery Option For Vertebral Fractures

March 18, 2010

For people with painful osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures that fail to respond to conventional medical therapy, a minimally invasive treatment called vertebroplasty may help. Performed by interventional radiologists under imaging guidance, vertebroplasty stabilizes collapsed vertebrae with the injection of medical-grade bone cement into the spine. The treatment provides pain relief and improves quality of life, if given to appropriately selected candidates for whom analgesics or narcotic drugs provide minimal or no pain relief or those who can’t tolerated the needed doses. Before treatment, many osteoporotic patients are in constant pain and cannot manage everyday activities. "Vertebroplasty puts lives and vertebrae back together," said Giovanni C. Anselmetti, MD, interventional radiologist at the Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment in Turin, Italy. "Our long-term follow-up confirmed this: pain relief and quality of life significantly improved with vertebroplasty." However patient selection is key for to be effective and successful, according to a study of more than 1,500 persons who were followed over seven years. "Vertebroplasty dramatically improves back pain within hours of the procedure, provides long-term pain relief and has a low complication rate, as demonstrated in multiple studies," said Anselmetti. Vertebroplasty provides pain relief from the complications of osteoporosis (vertebral fractures) but not the disease that caused it (osteoporosis). Added Anselmetti, "For the best results, collaboration between physicians is mandatory. All osteoporotic patients need to be followed by an interventional radiologist, who determines which patients are appropriate candidates to receive vertebroplasty treatment, and an experienced medical expert (in this study, a rheumatologist) to ensure continued treatment for osteoporosis."