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Osteoporosis and Spine Fractures
Interventional Radiology Treatments For the Pain of Spinal Fractures Caused by Osteoporosis

There are approximately 750,000 vertebral, or spine, fractures which occur every year. These fractures are most commonly seen in older women but are not infrequent in men. Younger people occasionally suffer from these fractures, particularly those whose bones have become fragile due to the long-term use of steroids or other drugs to treat a variety of diseases such as arthritis and chronic lung disease.

The most common cause of vertebral compression fractures is osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, or “porous bone”, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures. Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of the people 50 years of age and older. In the U.S. today, 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. The second most common cause of vertebral compression fractures is cancer. Occasionally, cancer can invade the spinal bones and weaken them to the point of fracture.

Fractures of the vertebrae have traditionally been much more difficult to manage than broken bones in the hip, wrist or elsewhere. Usually, hip and other fractures can be treated with surgery if necessary. Unfortunately, surgery on the spine is extremely difficult and risky and therefore typically has not been used to treat vertebral fractures associated with osteoporosis except as a last resort. Until recently, limited activity and pain medications, as well as invasive (and often unsuccessful) back surgery were virtually the only treatments available. In addition, many of the pain medicines used to treat the fractures cause undesirable side effects such as nausea, constipation, drowsiness and lethargy.

Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty are pain treatments for vertebral compression fractures that fail to respond to conventional medical therapy. Both of these procedures are non-surgical treatments performed using imaging guidance by interventional radiologists who are physicians with sub-specialized training in performing minimally invasive image-guided therapy. The procedure involves stabilizing the collapsed vertebra with the injection of special medical-grade bone cement into the spine. This eliminates or improves pain, and can prevent further collapse of the vertebra, thereby preventing the height loss and spine curvature commonly seen as a result of osteoporotic compression fractures. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty dramatically improve back pain within hours of the procedure, provide long-term pain relief and have a low complication rate as demonstrated in multiple studies.

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