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More Americans Suffer from Vertebral Compression Fractures

An estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and an additional 34 million are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for developing this condition.//

Of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, 8 million women have the condition and 2 million men. Along with hip and wrist fractures, severe osteoporosis can cause compression fractures in the spine. This occurs when the bony block or vertebral body in the spine collapses, which can lead to severe pain, deformity and loss of height. While osteoporosis is the most common cause, these fractures may also be caused by trauma or metastatic tumors. “In the past, people with severe pain from vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) were treated with bed rest, medications, bracing, or invasive spinal surgery, usually with limited effectiveness,” said Christopher Shaffrey, MD, a spine surgeon and American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) spokesperson.

Vertebroplasty for the treatment of VCFs was introduced in the United States in the early 1990s. The procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis, although some patients stay in the hospital overnight. Vertebroplasty takes from one to two hours to perform, depending on the number of vertebrae being treated. The procedure may be performed with a local anesthetic and intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Using x-ray guidance, a small needle containing specially formulated acrylic bone cement is injected into the collapsed vertebra. The cement hardens within minutes, strengthening and stabilizing the fractured vertebra. Most experts believe that pain relief is achieved through mechanical support and stability provided by the bone cement.

A newer procedure, called kyphoplasty, involves an added procedure performed before the cement is injected into the vertebra. First, two small incisions are made and a probe is placed into the vertebral space where the fracture is located. The bone is drilled
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