A Quick Fix for Osteoporosis Damage

Vertebroplasty might sound creepy or painful, but the fact is it could help you or someone you love. The technique -- developed at the University of Maryland -- involves injecting sterile cement into fractured vertebrae. It can be a huge relief for osteoporosis patients.

The procedure is designed to prevent the spine from crumbling and to stop the pain from weakened vertebrae. As cement fills and hardens permanently in tiny holes created by osteoporosis, the vertebrae are strengthened and the pressure on the spine is eased. Patients usually leave the hospital the same day as the procedure, and it can be done with only mild sedation.

Doctors say osteoporosis, which afflicts 10 million Americans, is on the rise. They blame a lack of calcium in modern diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. The Maryland researchers who developed vertebroplasty tested it on 30 patients, 29 of whom reported significant pain relief.

Reviewed July 2008

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