Uncertainty over benefits of balloon kyphoplasty

18 Sep 2017

The benefits for patients with osteoporosis undergoing the surgical procedure kyphoplasty to help manage the pain of vertebral fractures are still uncertain, a new scientific paper says.

The paper looks specifically at balloon kyphoplasty which involves inserting a balloon into the vertabra and slowly inflating it to create a space in the bone. The balloon is then deflated and the space is filled with bone cement.

“The relative efficacy and harms of balloon kyphoplasty for treating vertebral compression fractures are uncertain” the paper, which has been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, says.

Kyphoplasty is not generally useful to treat longstanding back pain associated with spinal compression fractures or other conditions. It Is generally considered for people whose spine fractures haven’t healed properly and who continue to have severe pain.

The technique is more likely to be effective in the early months after fracture but most compression fractures heal without intervention within 6-8 weeks with improvement in pain. Kyphoplasty is not generally considered until after this time.

Professor Richard Eastell, Professor and Head of the Academic Unit of Bone Metabolism and Director of the Mellanby Centre for Bone Research at the University of Sheffield and a co-author of the paper said there was “still uncertainty about the evidence base for using balloon kyphoplasty.”

“The clinical importance of the greater improvements with balloon kyphoplasty as opposed to management without surgery is unclear,” he said. “More research into the effectiveness of this procedure is needed.”

For more information about balloon kyphoplasty, see our factsheet

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