Sunday, August 28, 2005

Spinal Cement / Vertebroplasty Article in NYT

I've seen a few patients for whom vertebroplasty seems to have been helpful, though N is admittedly small. From the New York Times:

It used to be that a patient with osteoporosis who broke a vertebra was pretty much out of luck. The only recourse was wearing a back brace and waiting to heal. If the searing pain was unbearable, it could be blunted with powerful narcotics.

But in the past few years, doctors have been offering and patients demanding what some call a miraculous treatment: vertebroplasty (pronounced vur-TEE-bro-plasty), in which a form of cement is injected into the broken spinal bone.

No one is sure why it helps, or even if it does. The hot cement may be shoring up the spine or merely destroying the nerve endings that transmit pain. Or the procedure may simply have a placebo effect...

The two procedures are so common, said Dr. Ethel Siris, an osteoporosis researcher at Columbia University, that "if you have osteoporosis and come into an emergency room with back pain from a fractured vertebra, you are unlikely to leave without it." She said she was concerned about the procedures' widespread and largely uncritical acceptance...

Technorati Tags: New York Times, Vertebroplasty, Orthopedics, Vertebral Fracture

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