Recent studies have challenged the effectiveness of a popular kind of back surgery, yet many patients - and their doctors - say vertebroplasty works.
The minimally invasive surgery, known as vertebroplasty, is under scrutiny after two recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded the popular treatment to ease pain from back fractures, typically caused by osteoporosis, is no more effective than a sham surgery. Coming more than a decade after vertebroplasty was introduced in this country, the studies are the first to compare the treatment’s effectiveness to a placebo surgery, the gold standard for medical research.
Even some of the surgeons who conducted the studies were surprised at the results.
“Physicians who do this procedure know that patients get better,’’ said Dr. Harry Cloft, professor of radiology and neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic, and a co-investigator on the American study. “But to tell them it doesn’t work flies in the face of their everyday experience.”… Cloft was a member of the surgical team that introduced vertebroplasty in the United States in 1997.
Boston Globe by Kay Lazar, 08/24/09