Osteoporosis may gradually weaken a healthy spine, setting the stage for potentially debilitating fractures. Until a cure is found, an experimental treatment advance may prove to be the next best thing.
Considered a hallmark of the bone-robbing disease osteoporosis, mild to severe fractures of the lower back called vertebral compression fractures (VCF) affect nearly a quarter of all older American women. Researchers hope that an advanced medical device may help relieve pain and restore mobility better than conventional methods.
In the July issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, Dr. Lucia Flors and colleagues report on an innovative method called vesselplasty that was tested on 29 patients previously treated with medicines and physical therapy for painful VCF at the Hospital Universitario Doctor Peset in Valencia, Spain.
During the minimally invasive procedure, doctors utilized a new device called the Vessel-X bone Filling Container System to create a cavity—and a container—into which bone cement is injected to stabilize broken bones, improve posture, and prevent further fractures. With standard versions of the therapy, referred to as vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, the cement leaked out from the targeted area in up to 70 percent of cases.
“Theoretically, this technique solves the problem of leakage of cement from the vertebral body because most of the cement is contained by the expandable artificial vessel,” Dr. Flors’ group wrote.
Preliminary outcome data on 29 patients with 37 fractures show reduced pain scores in all treated patients, improved mobility in 93 percent, and reduced analgesic use in 62 percent. Asymptomatic leakage of cement occurred in 2.7 percent of the cases and the technique appeared to be as effective in treating new fractures as in older ones.
Most patients had fractures related to osteoporosis (73 percent). Other VCF were caused by trauma (13.5 percent), myeloma (8 percent), and cancer that had spread from other organs (5.4 percent).
Further investigation will determine long-term effectiveness and safety. The Container System device is yet to be approved in the United States.
Despite recent research questioning the effectiveness of vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, pain specialists point to several large studies that demonstrate their short- and long-term clinical benefit for treating painful VCF.