According to a study of 69,000 Medicare patient records led by researchers at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Spine Outcomes Research Center, people with spine compression fractures who undergo operations to strengthen back bones with cement survive longer and have shorter overall hospital stays than those who are only treated with conservative bed rest, pain control, and physical therapy.

While “interventional augmentation” procedures were initially more expensive than conservative medical management of the fractures, the researchers say that those treated more aggressively had lower in-hospital mortality and increased survival compared with non-operative management.

Osteoporosis, which mostly affects the elderly, is responsible for more than 700,000 vertebral compression fractures annually in the US. Traditional medical treatment is almost always tried first, while interventional procedures—known as vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty—consist of injecting bone cement through a small hole in the skin into a fractured vertebra.

In a report on the new study, published in the October edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, the researchers said that vertebral augmentation procedures not only appear to be associated with greater patient survival than non-operative management, but also that kyphoplasty, which uses balloon inflation to create an opening for the cement, tends to have a more striking association with survival than vertebroplasty.