Fall 2018 — Osteoporosis is a major health problem in the U.S., causing more than 700,000 fractures per year, according to the Society for Interventional Radiology.1 It’s estimated that about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis – a condition that increases the risk of bone fractures – and about 43 million Americans have low bone mass, a condition that can lead to osteoporosis.1

Studies show that about half of all women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. 2 Although Caucasian women are most at risk, osteoporosis and low bone density are also common among other groups of women, including African Americans, Asians and Latinas. Men can also develop the disease.

Because osteoporosis affects bone density, those with this condition can more easily develop spine fractures, which can lead to other serious health problems. A spine fracture – also called a vertebral compression fracture – happens when one of the bones within the spinal column weakens and collapses. Studies have shown that individuals with spine fractures are at a much higher risk of having more fractures, reduced lung function, bladder or bowel control difficulty, decreased quality of life and even death.3,4,5

Spine fractures, which are twice as common as hip fractures,1 can also occur in: patients on steroid therapy; in accident victims; in patients with brittle bone disease, multiple myeloma or undergoing chemotherapy; and in cancer patients with bone metastasis in the spine.

Once a spinal fracture has been diagnosed, Synergy subspecialty-trained radiologists can effectively treat spinal fractures using an advanced interventional radiology treatment called kyphoplasty. This is a minimally invasive treatment that results in less pain, quicker recovery and lower infection rates compared with major surgery.

Kyphoplasty is often called “balloon kyphoplasty” because it uses orthopedic balloon technology to expand or “open up” the space in a fractured vertebra. It is followed by the injection of medical grade bone cement to stabilize the fracture. Kyphoplasty is effective in relieving pain and other symptoms, preventing further loss of body height and halting progression of kyphotic deformity – a rounding of the upper back. Vertebroplasty, an alternative procedure, involves the injection of the bone cement into the vertebral bone fracture; however, it does not use a balloon to create a cavity inside the fractured vertebra.

Kyphoplasty is performed on an outpatient basis under local or general anesthesia. The procedure typically takes about 30 minutes for each fracture, and the patient is usually able to return home the same day. Most patients report immediate pain relief and improved quality of life.

  • Spine fracture symptoms to look for include:
  • Back pain, possibly with additional pain in the hip, abdomen or thigh
  • Numbness, tingling and weakness
  • Loss of height or a hunched appearance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Urinary incontinence

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to ensure proper diagnosis and management of osteoporosis and of any possible spinal fractures. Your provider will review your complete medical history and may order a bone density test and medical imaging exams such as MRI, CT or X-ray. Being proactive with your health may also help prevent or reduce the chances of future problems.

  1. 54 Million Americans Affected by Osteoporosis and Low Bone Mass. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/news/54-million-americans-affected-byosteoporosis-and-low-bone-mass/. Published 2018. Accessed July 26, 2018.
  2. What Osteoporosis Is and What It’s Caused by. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis. Published 2018.
  3. Lindsay R, Silverman SL, Cooper C, et al. Risk of new vertebral fracture in the year following a fracture. JAMA. 2001 Jan 17;285(3):320–3.
  4. Kado DM, Browner WS, Palermo L, Nevitt MC, Genant HK, Cummings SR. Vertebral fractures and mortality in older women: a prospective study. Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Arch Intern Med. 1999 Jun 14;159(11):1215–20.
  5. Huang MH, Barrett-Connor E, Greendale GA, Kado DM. Hyperkyphotic posture and risk of future osteoporotic fractures: the Rancho Bernardo study. J Bone Miner Res. 2006 Mar;21(3):419–23.
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