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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 00:00 GMT 01:00 UK
Liquid cement 'eases spine pain'
Spine pain could be relieved
Pain and deformity of the spine may be prevented with the help of a liquid bone cement, according to scientists.

They believe the treatment for the crippling bone disease osteoporosis can stop the spine from deforming and causing so-called "dowager's hump" - when the back hunches over.

We welcome the encouraging news that researchers are finding novel approaches to treat what is often a very painful condition

National Osteoporosis Society
The liquid cement, developed by scientists from the University of Maryland, also reduces pain suffered by patients.

It involves a procedure called percutaneous vertebroplasty, in which sterile liquid cement with the consistency of toothpaste is injected into the fractured vertebrae of the spine.

The cement permanently fills and hardens in the tiny holes created by the disease and strengthens the collapsed vertebrae, relieving pain and the pressure on the spine.

Britain has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in Europe and treating the disease costs the NHS more than 1bn a year.

Three million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis and half of all women over 65 are affected.

Doctors say the disease is increasing by 10% a year and 40 people die every day.


The progressive disease causes bones to thin and become brittle, leading to constant painful fractures, loss of height and curvature of the spine.

The disease causes bones to become so brittle that fractures occur when a sufferer simply coughs or rolls over in bed.

The new treatment could save thousands of victims of the disease from becoming bedridden or wheelchair bound.

The procedure takes less than an hour and only involves a local mild sedation. In a six-month study, 29 out of 30 patients treated with the cement reported significant pain relief.

Dr Gregg Zoarski presented the research at the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology in San Diego, California.

He said: "Vertebroplasty may prevent severe deformity due to repeated fractures. With this disease, gradually the back hunches over and the person loses height, especially if several vertebra are involved.

"If we treat patients soon after each fracture, we can minimise their deformity."

A spokeswoman for the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) said: "We welcome the encouraging news that researchers are finding novel approaches to treat what is often a very painful condition.

"Further research is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment and the NOS looks forward to longer term follow-up and the results of controlled trials."

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