Treating Fractured Vertebrae May Not Help

Here is a story from 2009 about a treatment for  vertebrae fractures.  The research was done decades after vertebroplasty was introduced. Presently it is a fairly common procedure (est. 75,000 per year.)


Another factor in considering whether to perform vertebroplasty is the possibility of complications: The cement can get into a vein or push on a nerve.


Two studies published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine show how difficult making medical decisions based on comparative effectiveness can be.

The studies evaluate a popular procedure for treating fractured vertebrae called vertebroplasty, where doctors inject cement to patch up the fractured area. Neither study found a significant advantage to using the cementing procedure compared to the placebo group, which only received an injection of a short-acting anesthetic like Novocain.

When doctors began using the procedure a few decades ago, it seemed like a miracle: By shoring up broken vertebrae with cement, doctors could offer pain relief to people with one or two cracked vertebrae from osteoporosis. The procedure was easy and caught on like wildfire.

Radiologist David Kallmes of the Mayo Clinic was one of the first people to do this procedure in the United States about 15 years ago. But after awhile, he and others decided it needed to be rigorously tested.

“This procedure is done in 75,000 people a year,” he says. That’s three-quarters of a million people over 10 years. “We should know for sure that it works,” says Kallmes. The cement injection procedures cost about $2,000 to $3,000, he says.

So Kallmes designed a study to see if the cement injection was really helping patients. In his study, 68 people got the normal procedure:…. for the rest of the story follow the link.

via Study: Treating Fractured Vertebrae May Not Help : NPR.

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