Spine Fracture?

Kyphoplasty procedure internally stabilizes spine fracture, relieves pain.

Janice Benedetti

Each year, approximately 36 million Americans ages 65 and older suffer a fall. That’s two out of three seniors. One of every five falls results in a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury, and falling once doubles an elderly person’s chances of falling again.

Janice Benedetti knows this all too well. Over the past two years, Janice has fallen twice. Both times, the New Jersey native sustained a vertebral compression fracture, or break in the bones (vertebrae) of her spine. The most recent incident occurred this past spring.

“It was May 1, which was a Saturday,” remembers Janice, 75. “I tripped over a rug as I was going into the house from my patio. I fell and hit my back on the TV cabinet next to the wall. The pain was excruciating, a 10 on a scale of one to 10. It’s a good thing my brother was visiting on vacation because he helped me get up.”

For the remainder of the weekend, Janice was in misery, unable to sleep or walk without pain. From past experience, she suspected she had seriously injured her back, so Janice asked her grandson to take her to the emergency room on Monday morning.

“The ER doctor took x-rays and told me there was a spinal fracture,” Janice relates. “They placed me in a huge brace and gave me information on a few doctors to follow up with.”

Janice’s first call was to an orthopedic surgeon who told her there was nothing he could do for her. She then dialed a neurosurgeon who agreed to schedule an MRI in two weeks, but Janice was in severe pain and couldn’t wait. She then turned to the physician group that treated the injury from her first fall: Florida Pain Management Associates. She prayed they could ease her pain this time as well.

“When I called the office, I said, I was a patient of yours before, and I need help,” Janice recounts. “They got me in right away. They sent me next door for an MRI the day of my appointment, then scheduled my procedure. It was all done that week. It was incredible.”

The doctor who treated Janice was Harold J. Cordner, MD, a board-certified pain management specialist. Dr. Cordner has an extensive arsenal of services for relieving pain.

“The first thing I did was send Janice for an MRI to confirm the emergency room physician’s diagnosis of a spinal fracture,”

Dr. Cordner notes. “Sure enough, the MRI showed she had an acute fracture in her spine, which was causing extreme pain.

“There are several options for treating spinal fractures, including leaving them alone; they can eventually heal on their own, but that can take months. Another option is to put her in a back brace and try to immobilize her spine. Or, I could perform a minimally invasive procedure called kyphoplasty.

During kyphoplasty, a physician places a needle into the bone at the site of the break and inserts a device to create a channel, or cavity, within the bone. The physician then injects bone cement, which fills the cavity. The cement hardens in 10 to 20 minutes, immobilizing the spine and stabilizing it internally.

“Because she was in so much pain, I recommended kyphoplasty for Janice,” Dr. Cordner informs.

Historical Dilemma

Dr. Cordner notes that patients with spinal fractures commonly go to a hospital or primary care physician. They typically are put on bed rest or referred to a rehabilitation facility, where they may begin physical therapy.

“Actually, it’s counterintuitive to send people with fractures in their spines to physical therapy,” Dr. Cordner observes. “That’s really the last thing you want to do. If a patient had a broken leg, you wouldn’t have him or her walking on that leg or doing exercises. The leg has a fracture; it needs to be immobilized so it can heal. For the same reason, the spine with a fracture needs to be immobilized.

“Unfortunately, a back brace is not going to fully immobilize the spine because the patient is still bearing weight on it. Bed rest is not a good option because extended bed rest inhibits bone growth. You don’t want the patient to just be lying down, but you can’t have them exercising, either. It has always been a dilemma.

“Kyphoplasty is an excellent solution because it immobilizes the spine from within and enables patients to function and be active. And movement promotes the formation of new bone.”

Kyphoplasty is extremely effective at easing pain associated with spinal fractures, Dr. Cordner reports. The procedure also works quickly, so patients don’t suffer for months in severe pain while waiting for fractures to heal.

“More than 90 percent of patients achieve good to excellent pain relief within the first 24 to 48 hours of undergoing a kyphoplasty,” the doctor asserts. “Patients can then quickly return to their activities of daily living, and they don’t need to wear a back brace following the procedure.

“Of all the procedures we offer, kyphoplasty is probably the most successful,” he adds. “It gets patients as close to 100 percent as medically possible. It is a very rewarding procedure to perform because patients with spinal fractures are typically in agony and almost immediately afterward feel relief and can move without discomfort.”

Reliable Relief

Janice noted a substantial reduction in pain within three days of having the procedure. Today, she’s nearly 100 percent pain free.

“Every once in a while, I might get a backache if I’m on my feet too much, and then my pain is about a one on a scale of one to 10,” Janice elaborates. “Otherwise, my pain level is zero. I have no trouble walking, sleeping or taking care of my house and pool.”

Just as she hoped, Dr. Cordner and his staff came through in much the same way they did after she injured herself two years ago. She hopes she never breaks another bone in her spine, but she’s glad to know she can rely on Dr. Cordner and his staff if she does.

“Everybody in that office is excellent,” she raves. “They’re very kind and friendly, and they treat me very well. I would absolutely go back to Florida Pain Management Associates.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb


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