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Cement Being Used To Fill Compression Fractures

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Compression fractures in the spine are quite common among older people. It usually happens as the bones weaken due to age or osteoporosis. A new surgery is helping those patients get back on their feet in no time.

Nine months ago, a fall changed Charles Lee's life.

"The pain was just so terrible I could hardly get up," he said.

Lee suffered a compression fracture in his spine.

"This bone is weakened by either osteoporosis, secondary to age, some type of metabolic problem or even some kind of tumor," said Dr. William Lestini, a surgeon at Raleigh Community Hospital.

Pain medications and bed rest did not help. Then Lee's doctor told him about a new procedure called Kyphoplasty.

Lestini is one of the first surgeons to perform the procedure.

Lestini made two small incisions in Lee's back and maneuvered his way to the fracture site. He then inserted two small balloons which inflate inside the spine.

"As it inflates inside the bone, it makes a space inside the bone. There's a void," Lestini explained.

That void is filled with cement. When the cement dries, it is just as strong as bone.

"You want a plug of cement there to give support, basically. Once that's solid, most people notice very immediate fracture relief," he said.

"In the recovery room you know that pain is gone," said Phyllis Mitchiner, who fractured her spine while simply sitting on the couch.

Mitchiner wore a brace for months, which she said was almost as uncomfortable as the fracture itself. Then she had Kyphoplasty.

"I can sit. As you can see, I can walk," she said.

Even though Mitchiner is back on her feet, she keeps her body brace as a reminder of what she has been through.

"I think it's just really sad to think that people are out there just enduring this excruciating pain," she said.

A week and a half after his surgery, Lee said that he is a bit sore, but is feeling great.