Procedures use cement to heal broken bones

May 10, 2010

"Before, I couldn't walk and afterwards, I could walk, and that's the only thing I know I can say," she said.

More than 25 million Americans have osteoporosis. It's a condition that makes bones weak and puts patients at risk for dangerous and painful fractures. A new procedure uses cement to heal broken bones in the pelvis.

At 85, Carolyn is still young at heart, but osteoporosis has made her feel her age in the last few years.

"I just thought I was an old lady, and half of my bones were going bad," Carolyn said.

Carolyn has fractured bones in her back, her wrist, her leg, her shoulder, and -- most recently -- her pelvis. The pain was intense.

"I got to the point that I couldn't walk anymore, and they had to put me in a wheelchair," she said.

Doctor Michal DePalma says pelvic fractures are common in people with osteoporosis. Fourteen percent of these patients will die within a year, and half won't ever be able to function the same. Dr. DePalma is using cement to fix pelvic fractures. In about a 30-minute procedure, he places two to three bone needles in the pelvis.

Then, he injects synthetic cement directly into the fracture. The cement stabilizes the broken bone and reduces pain. In Dr. DePalma's clinical trial, patients had a 50 percent reduction in their back pain just one hour after having the procedure and an 85 percent reduction after one year.

"Patients are able to function better on a daily basis. This is one of the most rewarding procedures we do," Dr. DePalma said.

Carolyn noticed an immediate improvement. She said goodbye to her wheelchair and has her independence back.

"Well, it's life-changing when you're in a wheelchair and then you're able to get out of it," she said.

Now -- Carolyn feels more like she did in years past.

Risks include bleeding, infection or having the bone cement escape. However, Dr. DePalma said in his clinical trial, he never experienced any of these. Doctors got the idea for this pelvic procedure from vertebroplasty -- a similar method where cement is injected into the spine.

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