Nonsurgical Treatment for the Pain of Spine Fractures Caused by Osteoporosis
For people who have experienced spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis (a progressive weakening of the bone), there have been few effective treatments available until recently. Now, a safe, nonsurgical, interventional radiology treatment called vertebroplasty offers hope for those suffering from the pain of vertebral fractures.
Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure using X-ray imaging and conscious sedation. The interventional radiologist inserts a needle about the width of a small straw through a nick in the skin of the back, directing it under fluoroscopy (continuous moving X-ray imaging) into the fractured vertebra. The physician than injects the medical-grade bone cement into the vertebra. The cement hardens, stabilizes the bone and prevents further collapse. This stops the pain caused by bone rubbing against bone.
Osteoporosis is called a "silent disease," because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a simple strain, twist of the body, bump or fall causes a bone fracture. The most common site of fracture is in the vertebrae, the bones that make up the spinal column.
Initially, the fracture may feel like severe back pain. However, when more than one vertebra collapses, a loss of height or spinal deformities, such as kyphosis or "widow's hump," may result. For some individuals, the fracture stabilizes itself and the pain goes away. But for many, the pain persists because the crushed bone continues to move and break. For many people with osteoporosis, a spinal fracture means severely limited activity, constant pain and a serious reduction in the quality of their lives.
The symptoms of osteoporosis may resemble other bone disorders or medical problems, so always consult your physician for a diagnosis. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for osteoporosis may include a family medical history, X-rays, a bone density test and blood tests.
Factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis include:
A family history of osteoporosis
Postmenopausal or an abnormal absence of menstrual periods
Anorexia or bulimia
A diet low in calcium
Long-term use of corticosteroids or anticonvulsants
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.