Background information: Percutaneous vertebroplasty is a therapeutic, interventional radiologic procedure that involves injection of bone cement into a cervical, thoracic, or lumbar vertebral body lesion for the relief of pain and the strengthening of bone. This procedure only recently has been introduced, and is being used for patients with lytic lesions due to bone metastases, aggressive hemangiomas, or multiple myeloma, and for patients who have medically intractable debilitating pain resulting from osteoporotic vertebral collapse.
Findings: Results from two uncontrolled prospective studies and several case series reports, including one with 187 patients, indicate that percutaneous vertebroplasty can produce significant pain relief and increase mobility in 70 percent to 80 percent of patients with osteolytic lesions in the vertebrae from hemangiomas, metastases, or myeloma, or with osteoporotic compression fractures. In these reports, pain relief was apparent within one to two days after injection, and persisted for at least several months up to several years. While experimental studies and preliminary clinical results suggest that percutaneous vertebroplasty can also strengthen the vertebral bodies and increase mobility, it remains to be proven whether this procedure can prevent additional fractures in the injected vertebrae. In addition, the duration of effect is not known; there were no long-term follow-up data on most of these patients, and these data may be difficult to obtain and interpret in patients with an underlying malignant process, because disease progression may confound evaluation of the treatment effect. Complications were relatively rare, although some studies reported a high incidence of clinically insignificant leakage of bone cement into the paravertebral tissues. In a few cases, the leakage of polymer caused compression of spinal nerve roots or neuralgia. Several instances of pulmonary embolism were also reported. Although patient selection criteria have not been definitely established, percutaneous vertebroplasty is considered appropriate treatment for patients with vertebral lesions resulting from osteolytic metastasis and myeloma, hemangioma, and painful osteoporotic compression fractures if the following criteria have been met: o Severe debilitating pain or loss of mobility that cannot be relieved by correct medical therapy. o Other causes of pain, such as herniated intervertebral disk have been ruled out by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. o The affected vertebra has not been extensively destroyed and is at least one third of its original height. o Radiation therapy or concurrent surgical interventions, such as laminectomy, may also be required in patients with compression of the spinal cord due to ingrowth of a tumor.
Conclusions: Percutaneous vertebroplasty has only recently been introduced as a treatment for osteolytic lesions and osteoporotic compression fractures of the vertebrae, but early results are promising. Up to 80 percent of patients with pain unresponsive to correct medical treatment experience a significant degree of pain relief, and few serious complications have been reported. However, relatively few patients have undergone this procedure, and there are no data from controlled clinical trials or from studies with long-term follow-up. At the present time this procedure is still in the investigational stages, but may be appropriate for patients with no other reasonable options for medical treatment.