Spinal fractures can cause constant pain. In addition to pain pills, there may be other ways to ease the discomfort.
A new procedure to surgically insert a plastic medical device at the point of certain types of spinal fractures relieved the chronic pain of patients who had those fractures, according to a new study.
The implant now provides a third option for treating pain related to fractures among adults with bones weakened from osteoporosis, the authors of this study wrote.
Sean Tutton, MD, FSIR, a professor of radiology, medicine and surgery at Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, was the lead author of this study.
The investigation by Dr. Tutton and colleagues was designed to test how well a relatively new polymer medical implant, called Kiva, reduced pain from vertebral compression fractures (VCF) that occur when certain parts of the spine collapse, usually in older adults with osteoporosis. These researchers then compared that new technique to existing balloon kyphoplasty that also aims to reduce pain.
Kyphoplasty, which can be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis, involves inserting a small balloon to lift and move the fractured bone into its previous, correct place.
Along with vertebroplasty, which uses a special medical cement instead of a balloon, kyphoplasty is one of two procedures that typically have been used to ease pain resulting from a spinal fracture. The Kiva implant also uses the cement and, according to these researchers, does a better job of keeping the cement from oozing out of place.
This study included 300 patients from 21 medical facilities in the United States, Canada, Belgium, France and Germany. Each of them had one or two compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.
Of the 300 studied patients, 153 received the new implant made of medical polymer and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2013. The remaining 147 had balloon kyphoplasty.
After following the 300 patients for a year, these researchers concluded that the polymer implant provided the same level of pain relief and of improved mobility and other bodily function as kyphoplasty.
These researchers also concluded that those who got the Kiva implant were less likely to have a break in a vertebrae near the original fracture. That was true even though the 153 patients with Kiva were at risk for additional fractures.
"This the first new method of treating these painful fractures in a decade, which is great news for patients because it not only helps restore quality of life, but it also was shown to outperform our most-used treatment in important ways," Dr. Tutton said in a press statement.
Each year in the United States, there are about 700,000 vertebral compression fractures resulting from osteoporosis, which happens when bones lose strength-building calcium and minerals.
The number of compression fractures is expected to grow as the US population, on average, is getting older.
Findings from this research were released March 24 at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 39th Annual Scientific Meeting, which runs through March 27 in San Diego, CA. The society promotes minimally invasive procedures, such as the three noted in Dr. Tutton's new study, as alternatives to major, more costly surgery that can require a longer recovery period.
"We are moving away from traditional vertebroplasty or balloon-based vertebral augmentation, which relies solely on the administration of bone cement. This new approach allows the treating doctor to deliver a much more predictable supportive structure into the vertebrae," Dr. Tutton said.