Treatment of Symptomatic Osteoporotic Spinal Compression Fractures
We suggest patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms suggesting an acute injury (0-5 days after identifiable event or onset of symptoms) and who are neurologically intact be treated with calcitonin for 4 weeks.This recommendation is based on two Level II studies which showed benefit in reducing pain at 4 weeks using salmon calcitonin administered within 5 days of a fracture event.27, 28 In one study, 100 patients were treated with 200 IU nasal calcitonin or placebo. Calcitonin reduced pain in 4 positions (bedrest, sitting, standing, and walking) and the number of bedridden patients at 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks in a clinically important manner. In a second study with 36 patients, similar results were found with calcitonin suppositories 200 IU. Side effects of calcitonin include mild dizziness.28
Two additional Level II studies with calcitonin showed benefit at longer periods of time (3-12) months but were not as well designed.29, 30 In one, possibly clinically important benefit was shown in pain reduction using nasal calcitonin in a two-month on and two month off fashion for 12 months compared to calcium 500 mg with vitamin D 200 IU.29 In another study, 200 IU nasal calcitonin led to possibly clinically important improvement in pain at 3 months when compared to 1000 mg calcium.30
The effect of subcutaneous administration of calcitonin is undetermined in a rigorous scientific manner.
Ibandronate and strontium ranelate are options to prevent additional symptomatic fractures in patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms.There have been numerous studies examining the effects of medical therapies for the treatment of osteoporosis to prevent radiographic fractures. The focus of this recommendation is not the use of medical therapies for treatment of osteoporosis (i.e. prevention of fragility fracture), but their use in patients with an existing fracture and the prevention of those patients experiencing symptomatic fractures (i.e. the critical outcome for this recommendation). Three studies of osteoporosis drugs exclusively enrolled symptomatic patients but none reported the critical outcome of a symptomatic fracture. Thirty-four additional studies were included that enrolled patients with symptomatic fractures or asymptomatic fractures (incident fracture determined by radiograph). Three of these studies reported the critical outcome of symptomatic fracture.
One Level II study31 investigated daily (2.5 mg) and intermittent (20 mg every other day for 12 doses every 3 months) administration of ibandronate for symptomatic vertebral fractures compared to placebo. Daily and intermittent ibandronate treatment regimens reduced new symptomatic vertebral fractures in a statistically significant manner at 3 years. There were no statistically significant differences in adverse events between ibandronate and placebo groups including those in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
One Level II study32 investigated daily strontium ranelate (2g) for vertebral fractures compared to placebo. Strontium ranelate reduced new symptomatic vertebral fractures in a statistically significant manner at 1 and 3 years. The occurrence of adverse events was similar between patients assigned to placebo or strontium ranelate. The only statistically significant differences were diarrhea, which occurred more frequently in patients receiving strontium ranelate, and incidence of gastritis, which occurred more frequently in patients receiving placebo. Effective as of July 15, 2010, Strontium Ranelate is not approved for marketing or the treatment of any medical condition in the United States. The United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current policy regarding disclosure of marketing applications can be found in “Current Disclosure Policies for Marketing Applications” on the FDA website.
One Level II study33 investigated daily oral pamidronate (150 mg) for vertebral fractures compared to placebo. Oral pamidronate did not reduce new symptomatic vertebral fractures in a statistically significant manner at 3 years and adverse events were similar between patients receiving placebo or oral pamidronate.
No recommendation is made for or against the use of any of the treatments considered not applicable to the reduction of future symptomatic vertebral fractures despite the large body of evidence for their use in osteoporosis.
We are unable to recommend for or against bed rest, complementary and alternative medicine, or opioids/analgesics for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are neurologically intact.There are no existing adequate data to address the use of the following potential conservative, nonoperative therapies for a spinal compression fracture in patients who are neurologically intact: bed rest or complementary, alternative medicines and opioids/analgesics.
It is an option to treat patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture at L3 or L4 on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms suggesting an acute injury and who are neurologically intact with an L2 nerve root block.The role of L2 selective nerve root blocks as a non-operative treatment for back pain associated with mid-lumbar compression fracture has been studied.66 In this trial, two groups of 30 acute fracture patients received unilateral L2 root block or subcutaneous injection as a control. A possibly clinically important benefit was seen with the treatment at two weeks but became nonsignificant at one month. The effect of bilateral L2 injection was not addressed in this study or the literature. Based on this single study, support for L2 root injection for treating new onset back pain associated with L3 or L4 compression fractures is weak and is therefore only an option for temporary pain relief.
We are unable to recommend for or against treatment with a brace for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are neurologically intact.There was only one Level II article studying the effect of bracing.67 This recommendation was downgraded to inconclusive because neither the age nor the level of the fracture being treated was reported. Additionally, this study investigated only a single specific type of brace for all fractures which call into question the generalizability of these results to all braces. While the results were statistically significant, we do not know if they were clinically important (MCII unknown). Based on this single study, there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of bracing.
We are unable to recommend for or against a supervised or unsupervised exercise program for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are neurologically intact.A single Level II study evaluated fractures with low back pain of greater than 3 months’ duration using a home-based exercise program compared to a control group continuing usual activities using the Osteoporosis Quality of Life Questionnaire, which evaluates 5 domains.68 We downgraded this recommendation to inconclusive because the low back pain experienced by patients in this study may not be the direct result of a specific spinal compression fracture. Results did favor exercise to improve the symptom domain at 6 and 12 months and the emotion domain at 6 months but not at 12 months. There was no difference in the physical function domain at 6 or 12 months. When evaluating the domain of activities of daily living there was no difference at 6 months but there was evidence favoring exercise at 12 months. In evaluating the leisure/social domain there was evidence to support exercise at the 6 month level but no difference at the 12 month level. The clinical importance of these outcomes is unknown. There was no documentation that the back pain measured was a direct result of the fracture.
We are unable to recommend for or against electrical stimulation for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are neurologically intact.One Level I study addressed the use of electrical stimulation limited to symptomatic patients with chronic vertebral compression fractures, with short term follow up of three months.69 This study had insufficient power to find a difference in this treatment when compared to a control group for the critical outcome measure of pain relief as well as quality of life. A surrogate outcome measure of change in use of NSAIDs was reported but the change in use was based on percentage of patients using less NSAIDs with electrical stimulation as opposed to the actual amount of NSAIDs used by individual patients. This outcome measure has little clinical significance and no quantitative measure to gauge pre vs. post treatment effect. Because of the inability to detect a difference in pain (an outcome that is critical to understand treatment effectiveness) or quality of life ,the evidence is inconclusive and we are unable to recommend for or against this treatment.
We recommend against vertebroplasty for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are neurologically intact.There are two Level I studies that compare vertebroplasty to a sham procedure.1, 70 These studies report no statistically significant difference between the two procedures in pain using the VAS and function using the Roland Morris Disability scale (up to one month and six months respectively).
These studies have been criticized for a variety of reasons. It has been argued that one of the trials1 was underpowered. However, this study did have sufficient power to detect the minimally clinically important (MCII) difference in pain (see Supporting Evidence section for details). Although crossover of patients after one month may have influenced the results in one of these studies,70 there was no crossover in the other study1 which also found no statistically significant or clinically important differences. Furthermore, crossover does not affect the lack of benefit for pain and function that the authors measured at one month.
Another concern was the low participation rate of eligible patients. This is an issue of external validity (generalizability) and not internal validity. The work group discussed this flaw, but chose not to downgrade this study for applicability because the trial authors noted that the enrolled patients were comparable to patients seen in routine care.[ref]
Furthermore, it has been proposed that vertebroplasty works better with certain fracture types than others. There are no prospective studies that report significant differences in outcomes based on fracture type.
It has also been proposed that vertebroplasty works better in patients that have more pain than those that were included in these trials. The baseline pain in both these trials was approximately 7 on a scale from 0 to 10. Other comparative studies had a baseline pain of about 8 and also had a mainly negative outcome.55, 71, 72
We recognize that a sham procedure may still introduce bias in the results (e.g. surgeons who know they are performing a sham procedure can unintentionally convey expectations to their patients) but there are also three other Level II studies that do not use a sham procedure as a control and they report similar results. One of these studies found clinically important pain relief at 24 hours.72 At six weeks pain relief was still statistically significant but not clinically important. After six weeks the effect was not statistically or clinically important (observations to two years). One study reported results for pain that were statistically significant and possibly clinically important at one day but inconclusive at two weeks.71 Another study found inconclusive results at three months.55
By making a strong recommendation against the use of vertebroplasty we are expressing our confidence that future evidence is unlikely to overturn the results of these trials.
Kyphoplasty is an option for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are neurologically intact.Two Level II studies examined the use of kyphoplasty compared to conservative treatment.54, 73 One study examined subacute fractures54 while the other study examined chronic fractures.73 In the study of patients with subacute fractures, clinically important benefits in pain were found at 1 week and 1 month, with possibly important effects at 3 and 6 months. There was no clinically important benefit in pain at 12 months. The study also found possibly clinically important benefits in physical function (at 1 and 3 months only) and the SF-36 physical component score (at 1, 3, and 6 months only). Clinically important improvement in quality of life was present at 1 month, and it was possibly clinically important at 3, 6, and 12 months.
In the chronic fractures study, all patients had fractures that were greater than one year old, raising the question as to whether the fracture was responsible for all of the pain. There was a statistically significant and possibly clinically important improvement in pain at 3, 6 and 12 months.
There were also three Level II studies which compared kyphoplasty to vertebroplasty.60, 61, 74 These studies were inconsistent in design and outcome. In the first study, patients were treated at a median of 8 weeks after a fracture.60 No conservative treatment control group was included. Kyphoplasty was favored over vertebroplasty when pain was measured out to two years. Repeat kyphoplasty in this study was a confounding factor. In the second study 21 patients were treated.74 Both groups experienced similar pain relief at 6 months, although there was insufficient power to find a difference. In the third and most recent study, 100 patients received either kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty within 43 days of fracture.61 There was no difference in pain outcomes between the treatment groups at 3 days and 6 months.
When considering the technical similarities between kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty and the unique recommendations for their use within this guideline, several points deserve mention.
- The comparison of vertebroplasty to a sham procedure confirms the lack of benefit from vertebroplasty for critical outcomes.
- Both procedures were compared to similar control groups. In the case of kyphoplasty the comparison to conservative treatment resulted in possible clinically important differences for critical outcomes up to 12 months whereas vertebroplasty compared to conservative treatment showed only possible clinically important differences for critical outcomes at 1 day.
- The direct comparison between vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty is logically consistent with the previous two points in as much as it shows a possibly clinically important advantage in critical outcomes for kyphoplasty at durations up to 2 years.
We are unable to recommend for or against improvement of kyphosis angle in the treatment of patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms.We found no study which addressed sagittal balance correction and properly correlated kyphosis angle with any patient-oriented outcome. All studies retrieved for this recommendation either examined only a single vertebrae as opposed to regional kyphosis or did not report the correlation between a change in kyphosis angle and a change in any patient-oriented outcome.
We are unable to recommend for or against any specific treatment for patients who present with an osteoporotic spinal compression fracture on imaging with correlating clinical signs and symptoms and who are not neurologically intact.Patients who present with neurological symptoms and osteoporotic spinal compression fractures clearly require treatment because they face pain, diminished function, and increased mortality.68 However, despite the need to treat such patients, there is an absence of studies that examine which treatments are most effective for these patients. Therefore, we are unable to recommend for or against any specific treatment.
Guideline Work Group:
Stephen I. Esses, MD, Chair
Robert McGuire, MD, Vice Chair
John Jenkins, MD
Joel Finkelstein, MD
Eric Woodard, MD
AAOS Guidelines and Technology Oversight Committee:
William C. Watters III, MD, Chair
Michael J. Goldberg, MD, Vice Chair
AAOS Evidence Based Practice Commitee:
Michael Keith, MD, Chair
Charles M. Turkelson, PhD, Director of Research and Scientific Affairs
Janet L. Wies, MPH, Manager, Clinical Practice Guidelines
Patrick Sluka, MPH, Research Analyst
Kevin M. Boyer, MPH, Research Analyst
Kristin Hitchcock, MLS, Medical Librarian
Sara Anderson, MPH
Laura Raymond, MA