St George Private Hospital vertebroplasty surgeon backs successful trial

Surgical innovation: Dr William Clark, pictured with a patient, Dorothy Exon, of Caringbah, led a trial into spinal fracture treatment at St George Private Hospital. Picture: Chris Lane

Surgical innovation: Dr William Clark, pictured with a patient, Dorothy Exon, of Caringbah, led a trial into spinal fracture treatment at St George Private Hospital. Picture: Chris Lane

An innovative procedure that tackles spinal fracture recovery will benefit patients by offering faster and long-term recovery.

St George Private Hospital was involved in researching and testing vertebroplasty, and doctors say the revolutionary findings are significant for osteoporosis sufferers.

Vertebroplasty is a treatment in which polymethylmethacrylate  a type of synthetic permanent filler or ‘cement’, is injected into a fracture to stabilise it and help relieve pain.

The trial of 120 patients was conducted in four centres in Sydney including at the primary trial centre, St George Private Hospital.

Patients from Sutherland Shire participated in the trial between 2011-2014 via referrals from Kareena Private and Sutherland hospitals.

Dr William Clark, the director of Interventional Radiology at St George Private Hospital, was the lead investigator in the randomised VAPOUR trial of vertebroplasty, which was carried out almost two years ago, and was published in medical journal The Lancet in the UK.

Dr Clark says this high quality medical research will change the way interventional radiology procedures are practiced throughout the world.

“Interventional radiology is an exploding field in medicine because there’s no wound,” he said.

“The skin is punctured and we use [x-ray] imaging guidance to perform the procedure.”

He says early intervention is key the success of the procedure.

“We believe that vertebroplasty is only effective for osteoporotic vertebral fractures of less than 6 weeks' duration at the time of the procedure,” he said.

“The earlier the better, before the fracture hardens up in a deformed shape.”

Dr Clark says the procedure gives patients new hope.

“It stops severe and acute pain, and has a benefit in that patients get active quicker and for longer,” he said.

“Spinal fractures, and the severe pain that they cause, are a very common problem for elderly Australians with brittle bones.

“Osteoporosis is an epidemic in people over the age of 60, which was the [minimum] cut-off for our trial.

“It will change the way the procedure is performed world-wide, and [the trial] all started at Kogarah.”

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