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Back Broken? Fix It with New Cement

Posted on: 06/28/2002
Every year in the United States, nearly half a million people have compression fractures in the bones of the spine (the vertebrae). This type of fracture causes the front part of the vertebrae to break and then collapse. It is most common in people over 70 years old. Postmenopausal women who are not taking hormone replacement therapy and anyone with osteoporosis are also at risk.

When a vertebra collapses, the spine becomes more bent or flexed forward. The person starts to lose height. Until recently, treatment for a collapsed vertebra was limited to bracing, pain medications, and physical therapy. Even with these treatment methods, chronic pain and deformity are common.

Researchers are working on a cement that can be injected into the bone. This procedure is called vertebroplasty. It restores the bone's strength, but not necessarily its former shape and size. There are some problems with the current cement available. It hardens fast, so the time the doctor has to perform the vertebroplasty is very limited. The cement may also damage nearby tissue.

A new cement made of calcium phosphate cement (CPC) is being tested. First, CPC is tested on cadaver bones, which come from human bodies preserved for study. Using cadaver bones allows researchers to inject the cement and then compress the bone until it breaks. This shows how strong the bone is and how much load can be taken using the new cement (CPC). Then CPC can be used for the actual procedure with greater understanding of its capabilities.

Vertebroplasty relieves pain and helps the patient avoid inactivity. Movement is restored quickly. New cements with fewer problems are being developed. These are more easily injected into the broken bone, restoring its strength.

Tae-Hong Lim, PhD, et al. Biomechanical Evaluation of an Injectable Calcium Phosphate Cement for Vertebroplasty. In Spine. June 15, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 12. Pp. 1297-1302.

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