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Vertebroplasty - Treatment for Painful Spinal Compression

Vertebroplasty is a new, image-guided procedure performed by Interventional Radiologists as a treatment for painful spinal compression fractures and for some types of spinal cancer.

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The procedure involves placing a needle into a fractured vertebral body and injecting a special type of bone cement. Many patients experience a dramatic decrease in their pain.

Approximately 700,000 vertebral, or spinal bone, fractures occur each year — usually in women over the age of 60. Researchers estimate that at least 25 percent of women and a somewhat smaller percentage of men over the age of 50 will suffer one or more spinal fractures. Younger people also suffer 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 lupus, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Of particular concern are spinal fractures caused by a progressive weakening of the bone -- a condition called osteoporosis. The pain and loss of movement that often accompany bone fractures of the spine are perhaps the most feared and debilitating side effects of osteoporosis. For many people with osteoporosis, a spinal fracture means severely limited activity, constant pain and a serious reduction in the quality of their lives.

Fractures of the vertebrae have traditionally been much more difficult to manage than broken bones in the hip, wrist or elsewhere. These broken bones can often be successfully treated with surgery. But because surgery on the spine is extremely difficult and risky, it has typically not been used to treat vertebral fractures associated with osteoporosis except as a last resort. Until recently, reduced activity and pain medications, many of which cause problematic side effects, or invasive (and often unsuccessful) back surgery were virtually the only treatments available. Today, however, there is a safe, non-surgical interventional radiology treatment called vertebroplasty (ver-TEE-bro-plasty) that has been shown to be extremely effective in reducing or eliminating the pain caused by spinal fractures.

The following information was prepared by the Society of Cardiovascular & Interventional Radiology (SIR) to provide general information about vertebroplasty, how it is performed, and which patients may benefit from the procedure. The site also contains general information about osteoporosis, and information about new research on the horizon that may improve treatment. (information provided by the Society of Interventional Radiology)

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