Nonsurgical Treatment for the Pain of Spine Fractures Caused by
For people who have experienced spinal fractures caused
by osteoporosis, there have been few effective treatments available
until recently. Now, there are two safe, nonsurgical, interventional
radiology treatments offered at Bryn Mawr Hospital for those suffering
from the pain of recent vertebral fractures—vertebroplasty and
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. Medical-grade bone cement is
injected into the vertebra to stabilize it and prevent further collapse.
This stops the pain caused by bone rubbing against bone.
Kyphoplasty is a slightly more involved technique
for treating painful compression fractures of the spine. Consequently,
it is sometimes performed under general anesthesia, often with an
overnight hospital stay. Your interventional radiologist may recommend
kyphoplasty rather than vertebroplasty, as kyphoplasty has been shown to
restore some height to the vertebra involved and may allow the bone
cement to be delivered with greater precision.
Benefits of the Procedures
Because vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive
No surgical incision is needed, just a small nick in the skin
No stitches are required
In the case of vertebroplasty, no hospitalization or general
anesthesia is required
Most patients report that their pain is gone or significantly better
within 48 hours and that they return to normal activity shortly after
vertebroplasty. Studies have shown that 75 to 90 percent of people
treated with vertebroplasty will have complete or significant reduction
of their pain.
Causes of Spine Fractures
Spinal fractures, also called compression fractures, are caused by a
weakening of the bone in the spine. A fracture occurs when the weakened
vertebrae of the spine collapse, usually in the middle (thoracic) or
lower (lumbar) spine.
In older adults, osteoporosis—a progressive weakening of the bone over
time—is the primary cause of spinal fractures. Fractures typically occur
in women over the age of 60 who are affected by osteoporosis. Spinal
fractures can also occur among younger people whose bones have become
fragile due to the long-term use of steroids or other drugs to treat
diseases such as lupus, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
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.