Doctors using cement to fix pelvic fractures



Posted on June 10, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

More than 25 million Americans have osteoporosis.  It's a condition that makes bones weak and puts patients at risk for dangerous and painful fractures.  Now doctors are using cement to heal broken bones in the pelvis. 

At 85, Carolyn Purdie is still young at heart, but osteoporosis has made her feel her age.

"I just thought I was an old lady, and half of my bones were going bad," said Purdie.

Purdie has fractured bones in her back, her wrist, her leg, her shoulder, and most recently her pelvis.

"I got to the point that I couldn't walk anymore, and they had to put me in a wheelchair," she said.

Doctor Michal DePalma , medical director of the VCU Spine Center in Richmond, Virginia, says pelvic fractures are common in people with osteoporosis. 14 percent of these patients will die within a year, and half won't ever be able to function the same.

Dr. DePalma is using cement to fix pelvic fractures.  He injects synthetic cement directly into the fracture.  The cement stabilizes the broken bone and reduces pain. In Doctor DePalma's clinical trial, patients had a 50 percent reduction in their back pain just one hour later and an 85 percent reduction after one year.

"Patients are able to function better on a daily basis. This is one of the most rewarding procedures we do," said DePalma.

Carolyn noticed an immediate improvement.  She now has her independence back.

"Well, it's life-changing when you're in a wheelchair and then you're able to get out of it," said Carolyn.

Now, she feels more like she used to. Doctors got the idea for this pelvic procedure from vertebroplasty, a similar method where cement is injected into the spine.