Vertebral Fractures and Spinal Fusions on the Rise

This report is from physicians at the Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine. They studied national trends related to pathological vertebral fractures (PVFs).

PVF refers to a fracture in a bone weakened by some other condition. Osteoporosis (brittle bones) and cancer that has spread to the bone are the most common causes of PVFs.

The authors collected patient data over a period of 12 years (1993-2004). They were able to see trends in treatment and outcomes. The following key findings were reported:

  • The number of PVFs in the United States has increased dramatically
  • Women between the ages of 65 and 84 are affected most often
  • Half the patients come into the hospital through the emergency

  • The length of hospital stay has gone down from 8.1 days to 5.4 days
  • Most patients do not go home from the hospital. They are discharged
    to a nursing home or rehab facility

  • The number of spinal fusions done for this problem has increased 15-

    The authors predict PVFs will continue to be a problem as more and more Americans age. Improved technology has made it possible to treat this problem but at a cost. In 2004, over a billion dollars was spent on hospitalizations for PVFs.

    Prevention and early intervention are important in order to reduce disability and save money from PVFs. New treatment methods may improve outcomes but at an increased cost. By studying trends of this type, health care policy can be developed to reduce problems like PVFs.

    Shivanand P. Lad, MD, PhD, et al. Trends in Pathological Vertebral Fractures in the United States: 1993-2004. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. September 2007. Vol. 7. No. 3. Pp. 305-310.

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