A Glue That Holds Your Spine Together After it’s Broken

Published in The New Indian Express, 03rd March 2016

CHENNAI: After a 60-year-old Laskhmi (name changed), homemaker from Mylapore, had a fall at home followed by severe lower back pain a year ago, no amount of painkillers or rest gave her any relief from the severe pain. The investigation revealed the sexagenarian had a compression fracture of LI bone (lower backbone) in spinal cord. Conventionally, bed rest and painkillers were only temporary solutions.


But given the patient’s age and other health complications, she needed a proper medical assessment followed by a course of treatment by doctors. “That is when I explained to the patient about minimally invasive procedure – vertebroplasty. Not many are aware of such a procedure and instead suffer the pain that might lead to severe condition and make the patient bedridden,” says Dr G Balamurali, a senior neuro and spine surgeon, Kauvery Hospital.

Vertebroplasty is a procedure without surgery where doctors insert a glue-like material into the centre of the collapsed spinal vertebra to stabilise and strengthen the crushed bone. “After the procedure, the woman was able to walk around within hours, got relieved from pain completely and discharged the very next day,” adds the doctor.

The procedure is suitable for the elderly who suffer osteoporosis, a condition where the backbones become weak and fragile. “I see at least five patients in my clinic, who suffer backbone fracture because of fall. People over 65-90 years have this problem. So far, the treatment has been generally bedrest and immobilisation with brace. This leads to significant problems for the elderly,” he explains.

Though the procedure was introduced a decade ago in India, there is not much awareness about vertebroplasty. Most doctors have not done it so far due to the cost and the possibility of some patients developing side effects.

“Only those doctors who have developed their expertise in Vertebroplasty can do it. Because, if the injected glue leaks into other parts, then some patients may develop side effects,” warns Dr Balamurali.

Vertebroplasty reduces pain and can prevent further collapse of the vertebra, thereby preventing height loss and spine curvature common among those with osteoporosis. It dramatically reduces back pain within hours of the procedure, thus giving long-term relief to the patients.