New procedure helps fix compression fractures in elderly

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- As the baby boomer generation gets older more than 40 million Americans are at risk for Osteoporosis and compression fractures.

A new procedure however hopes to help those brittle back bones.

Today, walking his dog is one of John Wallace's morning pleasures. But not long ago, this was just wishful thinking. Wallace suffered from a compression fracture caused by weakened bones.

"My spine had settled down on the nerve mass there and it was hurting all over my legs," said Wallace.

Dr. Douglas Beall, a Musculoskeletal Radiologist from Musculoskeletal Imaging and Interventional, says pain from a compression fracture is common in the elderly.

"A compression fracture is like it would sound, it's like stepping on the top of a coke can and scrunching it down," said Dr. Beall.

The procedure used on Wallace was the first new method of treating these fractures in the last decade.

The incision is a small poke-hole.

"It goes in through a needle, and then the device goes in a little loop of wire, in and over that wire goes artificial bone to provide a cast and in that we inject medical cement,” said Dr. Beall. “It takes about twenty to thirty minutes to perform and the patients get immediate pain relief."

And for patients like Wallace, pain free means more time with man's best friend.

"I would certainly be able to do anything that any other man that's approaching 88 would, or would dare to do," said Wallace.

Dr. Beall says that the surgery costs a fraction of the price of traditional surgery.

It also gives patients a better chance at avoiding deadly symptoms caused by inactivity, like pneumonia.


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BACKGROUND: According to Dr. Douglas Beall, over 200 million people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis, which is the medical term for compression fractures. If you don't know what these are, the sound can be compared to the sound of stepping on the top of a can as it scrunches down. The patient has acute and severe intense pain. Dr. Beall says, "50% of women and 25% of men will sustain an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime." The patients are usually elderly or people who have osteoporosis or soft bones. All or part of the spine bone collapses. In most cases, people are unaware of how or when they fractured the bone. If untreated, compression fractures can lead to curvature of the spine. This can impair balance and overall activity levels.

TREATMENTS: Treatments can be nonsurgical management. For example, the patients are told to get rest, bracing and let time heal the wound. But in some cases, nonsurgical management can lead to a high rate of morbid injury. That's because they lay in bed, get pneumonia and blood clots to the lungs. Some doctors say patients should wait no longer than eight weeks to seek treatment. Another standard procedure is the balloon kyphoplasty. This inserts a balloon in the spine at the point of the fracture, which is inflated to restore the spine height. The balloon is then replaced by cement so there is not another collapse. (Source:
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Patients now can be treated with vertebrae augmentation. Doctors make an incision the size of a small poke-hole. They use an artificial bone (PEEK or Polyetheretherketone) along with medical cement. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to perform the procedure and there's immediate pain relief. It costs a fraction of the price of a traditional surgery. The new treatment is approved only for the lower thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and is the first new technology to be approved in the United States in a decade, according to Dr. Beall. Complications could include leakage of the cement and fracture of adjacent bones, according to Dr. Mark Raden with the Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. (Source:


Douglas P. Beall, MD
Musculoskeletal Radiologist
Musculoskeletal Imaging & Interventional
Office: 405-601-2325

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