Pain Relief for Osteoporosis Patients With Fractures

TUESDAY March 18, 2008 -- In osteoporosis patients with spinal fractures, vertebroplasty provides significant pain relief and helps decrease disability, according to a new study.

Vertebroplasty involves injection of medical-grade bone cement into a fractured vertebra to shore up the fracture and provide pain relief. It's used to treat painful vertebral compression fractures that don't respond to conventional medical therapy with analgesics or narcotics.

The study followed 884 patients for five years who were assessed before and after vertebroplasty. Their average pre-treatment pain score on an 11-point scale decreased from 7.9 (+/- 1.5) before treatment to an average of 1.3 (+/- 1.8) after treatment.

The patients' ability to manage everyday tasks such as washing and dressing was measured using the Oswestry Disability Questionnaire. The patients' scores went from an average of 69.3 percent (+/-13.5) a month before treatment to 18.8 percent (+/- 6.9) a month after treatment.

"These data provide good news for physicians and osteoporosis patients. Many osteoporosis patients with compression fractures are in terrible pain and have a greatly diminished ability to perform basic daily activities, such as dressing themselves," Dr. Giovanni C. Anselmetti, an interventional radiologist at the Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment in Turin, Italy, said in a prepared statement.

The study also found that vertebroplasty didn't increase the risk of fracture in nearby vertebra.

"Vertebroplasty is already known to be a safe and effective treatment for osteoporotic vertebral fractures. Osteoporosis patients remain susceptible to new fractures, which often occur in the contiguous vertebra to an existing fracture. Our large-scale study shows that vertebroplasty does not increase the risk of fracture in the level contiguous to previously treated vertebra and that these new fractures occur at the same rate as they would in osteoporosis patients who did not have vertebroplasty," Anselmetti said.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the annual scientific meeting of the Society of International Radiology.

Osteoporosis affects about 10 million Americans and causes about 1.5 million vertebral fractures each year, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Multiple vertebral fractures can cause chronic pain, disability, loss of independence, stooped posture, and compression of the lungs and stomach.

More information

The American College of Radiology/Radiological Society of North American has more about vertebroplasty.

Posted: March 2008


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