Minimally invasive surgery treats osteoporosis-related back fractures

Vertebral fractures are the most common forms of broken bones caused by osteoporosis, and a relatively new form of surgery can correct such pressure fractures while leaving a minimal scar.

The procedure is called a balloon kyphoplasty, and the Winnipeg Free Press reports that it is being used successfully by physicians in the U.S. and Canada to prevent osteoporosis-related vertebral breaks from affecting elderly individuals' posture and quality of life.

When bone tissue is sufficiently weakened by osteoporosis, pressure fractures can occur in the backbone simply due to the weight of a person's body on the spine.



Of the 2 million fractures caused by osteoporosis each year in the U.S., an estimated 550,000 are vertebral fractures, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).



These compression fractures can cause pain and severe physical deformity, the University of Texas Medical Center (UTMC) states. Sharon Langley, a 69-year-old woman interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press, had suffered through two vertebral fractures without medical treatment before seeking a balloon kyphoplasty for her third.

She told the news source that the operation improved her posture and reduced her backaches, which had become quite severe.

During a balloon kyphoplasty, surgeons insert a tiny camera through a small incision in the patient's back. This camera guides the placement of a balloon, which, once inflated, pushes the affected vertebra back into its correct position. After the balloon is withdrawn, the remaining cavity is filled with bone cement to ensure that the correction is permanent, the UTMC says.

The kyphoplasty is an outpatient procedure that can dramatically decrease recovery time, Roger Smith, a neuroradiologist and Langley's attending surgeon, told the Winnipeg Free Press.

In the U.S., half of women and one-quarter of men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point, the NOF estimates. By 2025, the NOF expects that osteoporosis will cause 3 million fractures each year.
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