Future Directions: Augmentation of Osteoporotic Vertebral Bodies

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Abstract

Because current medical and surgical treatments of vertebral body fractures are less than adequate, there is a need for interventions that decrease the likelihood of occurrence of these fractures and improve the treatment options once they have occurred. One such broad category of intervention involves the fortification or augmentation of the vertebral bodies. In addition to prophylactically stabilizing osteoporotic vertebral bodies at risk for fracture, augmentation of vertebral bodies that have already fractured may prove to be useful by reducing pain, improving function, and preventing further collapse and deformity. Vertebral body augmentation can also be used as an adjunct to fixation of internal hardware-for example, pedicle screws-in osteoporotic spines. A number of products are now available or are in clinical trials. The most promising products are injectable materials-polymethylmethacrylate or mineral bone cement. The early clinical results using polymethylmethacrylate in percutaneous vertebroplasty for fractured vertebral bodies and the results in vitro using an injectable mineral cement for vertebral body fortification are encouraging. Although the principle of vertebral body augmentation remains encouraging, data to support the widespread use of these techniques remain sparse, and the indications for their use should be more clearly defined.

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