, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 930-936

Continuing conservative care versus crossover to radiofrequency kyphoplasty: a comparative effectiveness study on the treatment of vertebral body fractures

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Abstract

Background

There is controversy about how to treat vertebral fractures. Conservative care is the default approach. Radiofrequency kyphoplasty uses ultrahigh viscosity cement to restore spinal posture and stabilize the fracture. The aims of this study were to compare radiofrequency kyphoplasty to conservative care and assess the usual algorithm of starting all patients on conservative care for 6 weeks before offering surgery.

Methods

Elderly patients with painful osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures were all treated with 6 weeks of conservative care (analgesics, bracing, and physiotherapy). They were then offered the choice of continuing conservative care or crossing over to radiofrequency kyphoplasty, at 6 and 12 weeks. Clinical success was defined as: (1) VAS pain improvement ≥2, (2) final VAS pain ≤5, (3) no functional worsening on ODI.

Results

After the initial 6 weeks of conservative care, only 1 of 65 patients met the criteria for clinical success, and median VAS improvement was 0. After 12 weeks of conservative care, only 5 of 38 patients met the criteria for clinical success, and median VAS improvement was 1. At the 6-week follow-up after radiofrequency kyphoplasty, 31 of 33 surgery patients met the criteria for clinical success, and median VAS improvement was 5.

Conclusion

For the vast majority of patients with a VAS ≥5, conservative care did not provide meaningful clinical improvement. In contrast, nearly all patients who underwent radiofrequency kyphoplasty had rapid substantial improvement. Surgery was clearly much more effective than conservative care and should be offered to patients much sooner.