Review Article

Osteoporosis International

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 429-437

First online:

Treatment of Painful Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures with Percutaneous Vertebroplasty or Kyphoplasty

  • N. B. WattsAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA;
  • , S. T. HarrisAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Radiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • , H. K. GenantAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Radiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

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Vertebral fracture is the most common complication of osteoporosis. It results in significant mortality and morbidity, including prolonged and intractable pain in a minority of patients. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, procedures that involve percutaneous injection of bone cement into a collapsed vertebra, have recently been introduced for treatment of osteoporotic patients who have prolonged pain (several weeks or longer) following vertebral fracture. To determine the details of the procedures and to gather information on their safety and efficacy, we performed a MEDLINE search using the terms “vertebroplasty” and “kyphoplasty.” We reviewed reports of these procedures in patients with osteoporosis. We supplemented the articles found with other papers known to the authors and with presentations at national meetings. Randomized trials of vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty have not been reported. Case reports suggest that these procedures are associated with pain relief in 67% to 100% of cases. Short-term complications, mainly the result of extravasation of cement, include increased pain and damage from heat or pressure to the spinal cord or nerve roots. Proper patient selection and good technique should minimize complications, but rarely, decompressive surgery is needed. Long-term benefits have not yet been shown, but potentially include prevention of recurrent pain at the treated level(s) with both procedures, and, with kyphoplasty, reversal of height loss and spinal deformity, an improved level of function, and avoidance of chronic pain and restriction of internal organs. Possible long-term complications, again not fully evaluated, include local acceleration of bone resorption caused by the treatment itself or by foreign-body reaction at the cement–bone interface, and increased risk of fracture in treated or adjacent vertebrae through changes in mechanical forces. Controlled trials are needed to determine both short-term and long-term safety and efficacy of vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Both procedures may be useful for osteoporotic patients who have prolonged pain following acute vertebral fracture. Until there is conclusive evidence for efficacy and long-term safety, these procedures should be done only in carefully selected patients, only by experienced operators with appropriate high-quality imaging equipment, and ideally at centers that are participating in controlled trials.

Key words:Kyphoplasty – Osteoporosis – Vertebral fractures – Vertebroplasty