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Stiff Upper Back

A Stiff Upper Back

An innovative technique for the repair of spinal compression fractures brings new life to old bones.

Osteoporosis sufferers in Southern California are learning a new way to spell relief: c-e-m-e-n-t.
In a new treatment for spinal compression fractures — the second most common fracture resulting from osteoporosis — USC University Hospital neurosurgeons are actually pouring cement into patients’ backs. Called
percutaneous vertebroplasty, the revolutionary procedure involves injecting a plastic adhesive commonly used to set jaw fractures, into the gaps caused by the fracture.
Vertebroplasty doesn’t cure osteoperosis, but it “gets the patient up and about,” says neurosurgeon George Teitelbaum. “It re-duces or stops pain and improves mobility in 90 percent of cases.”
It doesn’t take much to cause a compression fracture. Eugene Triepke, an
80-year-old shepherd from Barstow, Calif., was doing his morning stretches when “something just popped.”
“My father was in excruciating pain,” says Triepke’s daughter, Katy Hayes. “He was nearly incapacitated.”
Today, Triepke is frisky as a lamb. “They sure fixed me up,” he says. “It’s unbelievable. I have no pain.”
The surgery originated in France eight years ago using a European cement not approved by the FDA. Teitelbaum learned the technique at the University of Virginia, where doctors recently adapted it for U.S. requirements. The USC team is the only one in California and among a very few nationally to perform vertebroplasty.





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