Spinal fusion procedures may not help

Senior Asian man suffering from back pain while he is walking outdoors

For those suffering from pain related to spinal fractures due to osteoporosis, spinal fusion may not be the answer. Cementing crumbling vertebrae to fuse bones together – called vertebroplasty – is common practice for osteoporosis patients. Over 750,000 vertebroplasty procedures are conducted annually in the United States.

According to a task force of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, the procedure is aggressively marketed to patients and doctors. The task force completed a thorough review of the data which was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Their findings reveal that:

  • Vertebroplasty provides no clearly significant benefit in pain control over placebo or sham procedures based on five randomized placebo-controlled trials.
  • The task force argues against the use of balloon kyphoplasty, a similar procedure involving a balloon that is inserted into the spine to lift it prior to cement being injected to fuse the bones. The study cites the absence of any benefits of kyphoplasty over vertebroplasty when compared in a small number of head-to-head trials.

The task force references the need for preventive measures for osteoporosis patients, and to use anti-osteoporosis medications and analgesics.

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