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What do you need to know about Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures?

By Prof. (Col.) Dr. Bipin Walia in Neurosciences , Neurosurgery

Sep 07 , 2017 | 3 min read

One in four patients dies within one year due to an Osteoporotic Hip Fracture. The disease is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and increased susceptibility to hip, knee and spine fractures.

Dr. Bipin Walia says that 50% women and 25% men (above 50+) are prone to Osteoporosis-related fracture once in their lifetime. This disease is responsible for causing more than 1.5 million fractures annually in the U.S., including 7, 00,000 spinal fractures, 2,50,000 hip fracture, and 3,00, 000 hip fractures. Having one spinal fracture can increase the chance of having a second fracture. Moreover, two or more vertebral fractures can increase the chance of having an additional fracture by 12 times.

Do you know that a hip fracture in an older person can increase the risk of death by 6 times?

Consequences of Suffering from Osteoporosis

It is called as the “Silent Disease” as a bone loss can occur without symptoms. It may so happen that you will not even get to know that you are suffering from Osteoporosis until your bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump or fall causes a fracture.

Fractured vertebrae can cause:

  • Severe back pain
  • Loss of height
  • Spinal deformities such as kyphosis (stopped posture)

You need to get a bone density done as it can predict the risk of Osteoporosis and hip fracture as well as determine the rate of bone loss and monitor the effect of treatment.

How can you Prevent Osteoporosis?

A step alone towards preventing the disease is not the right solution rather a combination of the following is recommended:

  • A balanced diet rich in Calcium (1200mg daily for men and women over 50) and Vitamin D (between 400 and 600 IU daily)
  • Weight bearing exercises (any exercise in which your bones and muscles work against gravity)
  • Quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake
  • Getting bone density tests at regular intervals and taking timely medications as advised to you by the physician depending upon the severity of Osteoporosis.

What is a Vertebral Compression Fracture (VCFs)/Spinal Fractures?

It occurs when a vertebral bone in the spine collapses, causing the spine to shorten and often bend forward. This leads to thoracic and lumbar spinal deformity. The thoracic spinal deformity is referred to as kyphosis.

Our clinicians' advice that patients with a painful spinal fracture have received palliative care, including bed rest (can extend upto 6 months), external bracing and narcotic analgesics.   

Are long term consequences of VCFs painful?

The long term consequences can be devastating and may cause:

  • Acute and Chronic debilitating pain
  • Change in spinal alignment after spinal fracture is healed
  • Significant Impairment in physical, functional and psychological domains in older women
  • Decreased pulmonary function and increased lung disorders
  • Decreased appetite and malnutrition due to stomach compression
  • Clinical anxiety and depression

Treatment option for VCFs:

One of the treatment options is Balloon Kyphoplasty. It is a minimally invasive treatment that stabilizes the fracture and corrects the deformity. The patient experiences improvement in mobility like performing daily activities like walking, and pursuing the hobbies. 90% of the patients report a total pain relief within 24 hours of the procedure.

How is Kyphoplasty done?

The spine specialist creates a small pathway into the fractured bone. A small balloon is guided through the instrument into the vertebra to make an incision of size approximately 1 cm in length. The balloon is carefully inflated in an attempt to raise the collapsed vertebra to its normal position. Once the vertebra is in the correct position the balloon is deflated and removed. The cavity is filled with bone cement forming an internal cast to support the surrounding bone to prevent further collapse. Generally, the procedure is done on both sides of the vertebral body.

The procedure typically takes about one hour and may require an overnight stay. The surgeon will determine the most appropriate method depending upon the condition of the patient.