Minimally Invasive Procedures for Spinal Fractures Available Locally--Surgeon to Present Free Seminar On Subject Tuesday, July 8

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: June 25, 2008 – According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans. Today, 10 million individuals in the United States are estimated to have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. One of the major dangers of the disease is that it causes more then 700,000 spinal fractures each year in the United States—more than twice the annual number of hip fractures.

According to neurosurgeon Susanne Fix, MD, if a spinal fracture is left untreated, more fractures can result which often leads to kyphosis or rounded back—the compression of the chest and abdominal cavity signified by “dowager’s hump.” Severe cases can affect the lungs, nerves and other tissues and organs, causing pain and other problems. While in the past there wasn’t much that could be done for a spinal fracture, two minimally invasive procedures are now available—kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.

“If someone gets a break and it isn’t stabilized, chances are they are going to break something else,” says Fix, who performs both procedures at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick Campus. “Both kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are very safe, quick procedures, and both involve injecting bone cement into the vertebrae to stabilize fractures. Which procedure is best depends on individual patients and their fractures.”

In vertebroplasty, the surgeon makes a small incision in the back and guided by a fluoroscope, passes a hollow needle through the spinal muscles and into the fractured vertebra. When the needle is in the correct position, the cement is injected into the vertebra. During kyphoplasty, the surgeon advances a thin tube into the fractured vertebra from an incision in the back. Through the tube, the surgeon drills a small hole through the hard, outer part of the bone and into its softer center. This provides a pathway for the physician to insert a special balloon into the interior of the vertebra, which is then inflated. This pushes apart the caps, or end plates, of the fractured vertebra, and restores the vertebra to its original shape as much as possible. The balloon is then deflated and removed, leaving a cavity that the surgeon fills with bone cement. As a rule, both procedures take one hour for each vertebra that is treated, she says, and most patients see a significant decrease in pain as soon as they wake up from the anesthesia.

“Both procedures can significantly reduce pain, increase the patient’s quality of life and ability to perform daily living activities,” Fix says. “Both procedures also have low complication rates. Kyphoplasty has also been shown to lesson vertebral deformity in some patients.”

Fix adds that although vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are usually used to treat fractures in osteoporosis patients, they can also for patients whose spinal fractures have been caused by cancer and for severe trauma cases where other procedures have not worked.

To inform the community about these procedures, the Health System is presenting a free seminar on Tuesday, July 8, at 7 p.m. in the Linda S. Pinson Conference Center on the Brunswick Campus, 2415 Parkwood Drive. Fix will be the featured presenter and will answer questions from the audience. To register for this seminar or any of the other seminars offered by the Health System, call (912) 466-5160 or register on-line at www.sghs.com.