Spinal fusion procedures questioned by global task force

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spinal fusion, vertebroplasty, balloon kyphoplastyThere is little to no evidence that two surgical procedures used to fuse crumbled vertebrae after a spinal fracture caused by osteoporosis reduce pain any better than non-surgical or placebo procedures, according to a new report in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

The task force looked into the most commonly used procedures to treat osteoporotic spinal fractures:

  • Vertebroplasty, where medical cement is injected into the broken vertebrae to fuse the fragments of bone together. The experts found that this provides no clearly significant benefit in pain control over placebo or sham procedures.
  • Balloon kyphoplasty, when a balloon is inserted into the compressed area of spine to lift it and allow cement to be inserted before the balloon removal. The team reported there was a lack of evidence to show this works.

“The message for doctors and their patients suffering from painful spinal fractures is that procedures to stabilize spinal fractures should not be a first choice for treatment,” says leading expert Dr Peter Ebeling. “While patients who had these surgeries may have had a short-term reduction in pain, we found that there was no significant benefit over the long-term in improving pain, back-related disability, and quality of life when compared with those who did not have the procedures.”

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