Spine-Repair Technique Comes With Risks

Cementing vertebrae raises odds for fracture in adjacent areas, study finds

FRIDAY, Jan. 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Vertebroplasty, a procedure in which bone cement is injected into spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis, does heal those fractures, researchers report.

But there's a catch: The procedure is also linked to a more than four-fold increased risk of new fractures in adjacent vertebrae.

The Mayo Clinic study of 432 patients also found that vertebrae adjacent to fractures treated with vertebroplasty fracture much sooner than vertebrae located farther away from the treatment site -- a median of 55 days versus 127 days, respectively.

Despite these findings, the Mayo researchers still recommend the procedure. But they say doctors need to fully inform patients about the risks.

"We found there is a relationship between vertebroplasty and the development of new fractures," study first author Andrew Trout said in a prepared statement. "People should be made aware of the fact that despite the positive benefits of vertebroplasty, there is a risk of new fractures with this procedure."

Senior investigator and neuroradiologist Dr. David Kallmes noted that this study does point to a significant association between vertebroplasty and new fractures in adjacent vertebrae, but does not provide absolute proof of cause-and-effect.

"We consider the findings of the current study provocative. Our findings suggest vertebroplasty speeds -- and possibly facilitates -- the fracture of adjacent vertebrae. This is not definite evidence, but should be considered when discussing risks with patients before embarking on vertebroplasty," Kallmes said.

The study appears in the January issue of the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about vertebroplasty.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Jan. 16, 2006
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