What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that results from low bone density and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures. This condition progresses slowly and may not show noticeable symptoms until a bone fracture occurs. Although osteoporosis affects both men and women, it is more commonly seen in postmenopausal women due to decreased levels of oestrogen that play a role in maintaining bone density. Other factors that can increase the risk of osteoporosis include a family history of the condition, inadequate calcium intake, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, and medical conditions like hyperthyroidism. Treatment options for osteoporosis include medications to enhance bone density, supplements to ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D levels, weight-bearing exercises to improve bone health, and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of falls and fractures.
What are Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures?
Vertebral fractures that result from osteoporosis are termed Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures.
Osteoporotic Vertebral Compression Fractures are very common fragility fractures of the spine that affect up to 50% of people over 80 years old.
How do Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures present?
The signs and symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some may not experience any symptoms at all.
Symptoms may include:
- Back pain: A quarter of these fractures are painful, with the pain at the fracture area or radiating along the nerves.
- Kyphosis: They can also cause loss of height and a stooped posture, known as kyphosis or dowager's hump.
- Spinal cord compression: Rare
- Reduced mobility
How is Osteoporotic Vertebral Fracture diagnosed?
Osteoporotic vertebral fractures are typically diagnosed using imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. These tests can detect changes in the shape and structure of the vertebrae, including compression or collapse of the vertebral body. A doctor may also perform a physical examination and ask about symptoms such as back pain, loss of height, or changes in posture. In some cases, additional tests may be recommended to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as a bone scan or blood tests to evaluate bone density and overall health. A diagnosis of osteoporotic vertebral fracture may also prompt further evaluation and treatment for underlying osteoporosis.
How are Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures treated?
Treatment for osteoporotic vertebral fractures depends on the severity of the fracture and the extent of symptoms.
In cases where the fracture is mild, and there are no significant symptoms, treatment may involve pain management with over-the-counter pain medications and rest.
In more severe cases, treatment may involve prescription pain medications, bracing to stabilize the spine, physical therapy to improve mobility and strength, and lifestyle modifications such as improving diet and exercise to improve bone health.
Treatment for those with underlying osteoporosis may also involve medications to improve bone density and reduce the risk of further fractures.
In rare cases where the fracture is causing severe symptoms or neurological damage, surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine and relieve pressure on nerves.
The two minimally invasive surgical procedures for treating vertebral compression fractures are:
- Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure wherein a small needle is inserted into the fractured vertebra under X-ray guidance. A special type of cement is injected into the vertebra to stabilize it and reduce pain. The cement hardens quickly, providing immediate support to the fractured bone. Vertebroplasty has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in individuals with vertebral fractures, although it may not be appropriate for all cases.
- Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat vertebral fractures, particularly those caused by osteoporosis. During the procedure, a small balloon is inserted into the fractured vertebra under X-ray guidance and inflated to create a space in the bone. The space is then filled with a special cement to stabilize the vertebra and reduce pain. The cement hardens quickly, providing immediate support to the fractured bone.
Kyphoplasty has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in individuals with vertebral fractures, although it may not be appropriate for all cases.
Explore procedures for Osteoporotic Fractures:
Vertebroplasty/Kyphoplasty: Procedures to stabilise spinal fractures and alleviate pain caused by osteoporosis.