Patients who have cancer that has spread often get painful and debilitating fractures as a result of the cancer and cancer treatments that cause poor bone quality. Due to the poor bone quality, surgeons usually don’t operate on such patients and reserve corrective surgery for those with neurological conditions.
The usual method of management is to give the patient painkillers and advise bed rest and sometimes physical therapy, although all these methods are notoriously ineffective and can cause more harm than good.
Now, a new minimally invasive surgery has been shown to reduce pain and improve the quality of life of cancer patients with fractures. The technique is called balloon kyphoplasty.
What is Balloon Kyphoplasty?
Balloon kyphoplasty is a surgery whereby the surgeon makes a tiny cut near where the fracture is located and guides a small instrument into it, with a balloon attached to it. The balloon then inflates gently to move the fractured bone back into its correct place.
In a trial that was published in the Lancet Oncology, 134 patients were assigned to either receive balloon kyphoplasty (70) or non-surgical management (64) and their back function was measured one month afterward by use of a questionnaire to assess the level of disability. Doctors also assessed their use of painkillers and quality of life at regular intervals over one year.
At one month, the kyphoplasty group had significant improvement in their back disability score, whereas there was no change in the non-surgical group. The patients who were given immediate kyphoplasty also had improvements in quality of life and rapid pain relief (one week after surgery). Fewer patients in the kyphoplasty group were using painkillers, walking aids, back braces or were on bed rest after one month. They also had a low risk of developing new fractures after one year.
The study authors said, "Kyphoplasty for patients with cancer can be done and patients discharged from the treatment facility within 24 hours, [it] typically requires minimal recovery time, and does not delay chemotherapy or radiation therapy.