Aug. 12, 1999 ROCHESTER, MINN. -- People who have prolonged and debilitating pain associated with compression fractures in their spinal vertebrae may be able to find relief with a procedure now being offered at Mayo Clinic.
The procedure, known as vertebroplasty (ver-TEE-bro-plasty), involves injecting bone cement into the vertebrae where a compression fracture exists, stabilizing the fracture and relieving the pain.
"The outcome of the patients we have treated has been very encouraging," says Timothy Maus, M.D., a Mayo Clinic radiologist. "Before development of this technique, the only treatment for these patients was wearing a brace, taking analgesics and bed rest. This ongoing treatment was often as life altering as the condition itself. Now, we are able to offer patients a minimally-invasive treatment that can provide significant pain relief and give them back their mobility."
Prior to the procedure, radiologists use X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and bone scans to find the fracture or fractures which are causing the pain. When the area is located and confirmed, the bone cement is injected into the vertebrae under X-ray guidance using a hollow needle. The bone cement hardens within 15 minutes and the patient remains on bed rest anywhere from two to several hours.
Vertebral fractures are most often the result of osteoporosis. "As the population ages, this condition will become more common," says Dr. Maus. "Vertebroplasty, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes management of the underlying cause and rehabilitation, can bring great pain relief at modest cost and modest risk."
Vertebroplasty was originally introduced in France during the 1980’s. In the United States, Mary Jensen, M.D. and Jacques Dion, M.D. (now of Emory University) pioneered the technique at the University of Virginia.
"Vertebroplasty is a smart healthcare decision for patients who are good candidates for the procedure," says Dr. Jensen. "We have found that relieving patients of their pain and enabling them to get out of bed and on with their lives is not only healthier physically and mentally, but makes good economic sense.
"A typical vertebroplasty usually costs less than $1,000 which is significantly less than would be spent on skilled nursing care alone when a patient is confined to his or her bed for the number of weeks that prior treatment options might involve," says Dr. Jensen.
Mayo Clinic and the University of Virginia are two of a few centers nationwide that offer vertebroplasty as part of a comprehensive management program for vertebral compression fractures. Dr. Jensen can be contacted through or additional information on vertebroplasty can be found on the website www.vertebroplasty.org
It is estimated that osteoporosis affects more than 10 million individuals in the United States, 80 percent of whom are women. An additional 18 million people have low bone mass which places them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is also responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures each year including 700,000 vertebral fractures.
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