Boston Medical Center Offers New Treatmentfor Spinal Fractures

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
November 17th, 2004

Contact: Gina M. Digravio, 617-638-8491 | gina.digravio@bmc.org

(Boston) – Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) departments of orthopaedic surgery and radiology are offering a minimally invasive treatment known as kyphoplasty to provide patients with osteoporosis and other disorders quick relief from the pain of spinal compression fractures, with high rates of success.

Osteoporosis, a bone disorder that most commonly affects postmenopausal women, as well as men and women 65 years and older, is the cause of more than 80 percent of spinal fractures in this country. With osteoporosis, bone is unable to naturally restore itself and, instead, becomes brittle and fragile. When the disorder affects the largest part of the vertebra, bone becomes thin and significantly weakened, and therefore susceptible to painful compression forces.

In vertebral compression fractures, the thick block of bone at the front of the vertebra in the spine collapses – like an empty soda can – causing the spine to shorten and fall forward under the normal weight of a person. These stresses often result in an abnormal, forward curvature of the spine, or kyphosis, a condition that may lead to difficulty breathing and eating because of its effects on the chest and abdominal cavity.

In kyphoplasty, surgeons insert specially designed balloons through small metal tubes into the broken vertebra through tiny incisions along the back. The balloons are inflated with a sterile liquid dye that allows the surgeon to visualize the balloon under x-ray. After the compressed bones are restored back to, or near, its original dimensions, the balloons are deflated and removed. Bone glue is inserted into the bone, and the patient is ready to stand up in only 10 minutes.

“With kyphoplasty, up to 90 percent of our patients have pain relief within two days of the surgery, and fracture fixation is immediate,” said Christopher Bono, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at BMC, and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Boston University School of Medicine. “Previously, other options for compression fractures from osteoporosis, such as medicines and braces, still left the patient in pain, as well as the surgical option requiring a large incision across the abdomen.

“Kyphoplasty is a remarkable treatment of a problem that was previously essentially untreatable,” he added. “This procedure is the gold standard that now stands alone.”

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