• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: How vertebroplasty can reduce back pain for some

Complaints of back pain are on the rise. About 40% of people in the U.S. experience back pain, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study That's up 10% over the past 20 years.

Dr. David A. Miller, a Mayo Clinic diagnostic radiologist, explains how vertebroplasty, an outpatient procedure to stabilize fractures in the vertebrae by using bone cement, can reduce back pain.

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Sitting, lifting, walking — debilitating activities when vertebrae have cracked or broken from trauma, or from bone-thinning, also known as osteoporosis.

"Pain from a fracture can keep you from doing pretty much anything you need to do," says Dr. Miller. "It's these fractures that can be helped by vertebroplasty."

X-rays guide the physician along the spine to the fracture. Then bone cement is mixed and injected into the affected area. In case of multiple fractures, the physician must work quickly, as the cement hardens in about 20 minutes. Once set, fractures are stabilized, and the spine is supported.

"For many of these patients, when they go to get up, their pain is gone," says Dr. Miller.

Dr. Miller says patients return to activity after a few weeks. They are instructed how to strengthen their back through diet and exercise to prevent further fractures.

"The goal is to get people back to doing all the things they were doing before they had their fracture," says Dr. Miller.

Bone cement is mixed and injected into the spine during a veterbroplasty procedure.

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