Treatment for Spine Fractures

Nearly 1 million osteoporosis patients suffer from fractures of the spine each year. The injuries are painful and often limit mobility. Traditional treatment includes bed rest and a brace, but a new procedure helps fix the fracture and gets patients back on their feet in a matter of days.

Eighty-year-old Rita Picken has osteoporosis. While experiencing bone loss and becoming susceptible to fractures, she took a terrible fall last year and crushed two vertebrae along her spine. “It was a severe ache. It was, at times, a burning pain,” says Rita.

Rita’s doctor suggested she undergo a new procedure called kyphoplasty. Frank Phillips, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with the University of Chicago in Illinois, says the procedure helps stabilize and straighten the spine while eliminating pain.

“I tell patients it’s the only spine procedure I do that patients actually feel better the day I operate on them,” says Dr. Phillips.

During kyphoplasty, doctors make a small incision into the skin, creating a pathway to the fractured vertebra. An instrument called a balloon tamp is inserted and inflated. It pushes the collapsed bone back into place. The balloon is then removed, and a substance called bone cement is injected, securing the vertebra in its proper position.

“The cement that we use has been used for many, many years in orthopedics and is well-tolerated and does not degenerate or deteriorate over time,” says Dr. Phillips.

Most patients are hospitalized for a day or two.

Rita says, “I’m not as young as I used to be.” Yet she’s resumed her favorite activities. And the big difference now: she’s free of pain.

Kyphoplasty is currently available at approximately 20 spine centers across the United States. Cost for the procedure and your hospital stay starts at about $10,000. You should check with your individual health care provider to see if the procedure is covered.

source: Ivanhoe 2000

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