TUESDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- After studies last year found that a type of surgery called vertebroplasty was no better than a sham procedure in treating painful compression fractures, a new study now suggests the therapy can, in fact, ease some patients' pain.
In this (typically) outpatient procedure, doctors inject a type of stabilizing cement into the affected part of the spine.
For some people with weak bones who fracture the small bones in their spine -- an injury called an acute osteoporotic vertebral compression fracture -- vertebroplasty can be a safe and effective treatment, Dutch researchers conclude in the Aug. 10 online edition of The Lancet.
The study was funded in part by Cook Medical, which makes material used in vertebroplasty.
"Pain relief after the procedure is immediate, sustained for one year, and is significantly better than that achieved with conservative treatment and at acceptable costs," wrote a team led by Dr. Caroline Klazen, from St. Elisabeth Ziekenhuis in Tilburg, the Netherlands.
But other experts cast doubt on the findings, noting that for most of the study participants, pain resolved on its own without the need for surgery.
The new Dutch study involved 431 patients, aged 50 or older, with osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures. The patients had been in pain for six weeks or less. The researchers randomly assigned them to receive vertebroplasty or conservative treatment.
Conservative treatment included taking pain relievers, ice and heat treatments, and later a stretching and back strengthen program. In addition, a back brace may be called for, experts say.
However, the researchers noted that more than half (53 percent) of participants had their pain spontaneously disappear during the assessment phase of the study.
Among the 202 remaining patients, the 101 treated with vertebroplasty ha
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