Called vertebroplasty, the procedure involves injecting surgical cement into the vertebrae of patients to relieve pain from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis. Some 750,000 Americans get these fractures each year.
Side effects of vertebroplasty can include cement leakage and the possibility that it could increase the risk of future fractures.
Each year Medicare pays for roughly 40,000 vertebroplasty procedures at a cost of $3,000 or more, says Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center orthopedic surgeon James Weinstein. If the new studies' findings are correct, much of that money has been wasted.