Vertebroplasty heals fractures but may cause others, Mayo Clinic study finds

A new Mayo Clinic study finds that vertebroplasty, a procedure used to treat painful compression fractures in the spinal vertebrae due to osteoporosis, appears to increase the risk for new fractures in adjacent vertebrae. The study also found vertebrae adjacent to fractures treated with vertebroplasty fracture significantly sooner than more distant vertebrae. Findings will be published in the January issue of American Journal of Neuroradiology (http://www.ajnr.org).

"We found there is a relationship between vertebroplasty and the development of new fractures," says Andrew Trout, first author of the paper describing the study's findings. "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."

The researchers discovered that following vertebroplasty, which involves injecting bone cement into the vertebrae to stabilize fractures, patients' risk for new fractures in vertebrae adjacent to those treated was 4.62 times the risk for nonadjacent vertebral fractures. In addition, they found that new fractures occurred in adjacent vertebrae sooner than in nonadjacent vertebrae: a median of 55 days following vertebroplasty for adjacent fractures and 127 days for nonadjacent vertebral fractures. This is the largest study ever to address the risk of new fractures post-vertebroplasty and the first study to examine whether there is a difference in time course between the development of new fractures adjacent and nonadjacent to the original fracture after treatment with vertebroplasty.

"Previous studies of vertebroplasty in cadavers and using computer simulation suggested that inserting cement in one bone weakens adjacent bones," explains David Kallmes, M.D., Mayo Clinic neuroradiologist and senior study investigator. The weakening effect is possible due to the overall cushioning effect of the spine, where stiffening one part put

Contact: Lisa Lucier
Mayo Clinic

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