If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis (a loss in bone mass), and start to have back pain, don’t blame it on old age or injury. Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) – small cracks or breaks in the spine’s vertebrae - may be the cause of your discomfort.
Commonly dismissed by most people as an age-related ache or pain, approximately two-thirds of VCFs go undiagnosed each year, leading to lung and breathing problems, and even early death.
“Untreated vertebral compression fractures are associated with increased morbidity and mortality,” said Vivek Mishra, M.D., an interventional radiologist with the Vein & Laser Institute. “Uncontrolled pain that accompanies VCFs causes loss of mobility, loss of muscle mass, and increased susceptibility to infections. Leaving a fracture untreated also causes increased curvature of the spine and additional fractures in adjacent vertebra because they are bearing the load of the injured area,” Dr. Mishra said.
It’s a serious health issue, but a treatable one. Advanced medical care by an interventional radiologist may be the answer. Traditional therapies utilize pain medication, muscle relaxers, bed rest, and physical therapy to treat, but as medical technologies have evolved, so have treatments for VCFs.
Kyphoplasty, vertebral augmentation, and vertebroplasty are three such non-surgical options that can eliminate or significantly reduce pain for people with compression fractures due to osteoporosis.
These outpatient procedures use different techniques to achieve the same outcome: strengthening and stabilizing the injured area while providing significant pain relief.
In Kyphoplasty, the interventional radiologist uses X-ray guidance to insert a narrow tube into the vertebra and inflate a balloon to create a space inside the bone, restoring the vertebra to its normal height. Then, the area is filled with a special bone cement that hardens in minutes, creating a strong support for the fractured vertebra. Pain relief can be immediate or take up to a few days. Most patients return home the same day of surgery.
Dr. Mishra and his partners, Dr. Amjad Alkadri and Dr. Omar Barakat, have 38 years of combined experience performing kyphoplasty procedures. They have always insisted on taking a patient’s whole health into consideration, ensuring the most favorable outcomes for their patients.
“A good clinical examination and history are the starting points. If we suspect a fracture due to osteoporosis, we use an MRI or CT exam to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on the findings, either vertebroplasty, vertebral augmentation or kyphoplasty are considered,” Dr. Mishra said. “We also work closely with physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons throughout the process utilizing their input,” he said.
“After the procedure, we follow our patient closely and provide other treatments as necessary, such as an epidural steroid shot, to aid in recovery.”
Dr. Mishra said that as part of this holistic approach, the team also suggests bone densitometry – a painless scan to check for other signs of osteoporosis in the body. They advise all their patients who smoke to stop, and exercise mildly, but regularly.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, bone density tests are recommended for women ages 65 or older, or younger women who may have a higher-than-normal chance of fracture for their age. Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis, especially if you are having back or other pain. If you have been diagnosed and want to discuss minimally-invasive options for back pain relief due to your osteoporotic vertebral fractures, contact the Vein & Laser Institute at 219-736-8118, or visit them online at www.veinandlaser.com