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Studies document that cementing spinal injuries is no more valuable than placebo

The New York Times reported on August 6 that the New England Journal of Medicine's August issue contained surprising information on vertebroplasty--that is, the expensive, complicated surgery involving the injection of acrylic cement into spinal column bones to ease back pain.  The surgery costs more than $3500, including MRI expenses, is dangerous, and was performed 73,000 times in the U.S. last year.  Dr. David F. Kallmes, a professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic reported that randomized studes performed by his group and another group of phyisicans in Australia confirmed that the procedure was no more effective in treating back pain than a sham procedure that injected no cement into patients' spines.

Whether patients actually received a vertebroplasty, or simply went through a similar procedure without any effective treatment, they exhibited virtually identical pain relief, leaving Kr. Kallmes, who helped develop vertebroplasty, "shocked at the results."  The lead Australian author summarized the results without equivocation:  "It does not work."  Sadly, some phyisicans interviewed by the Times continue to believe the procedure should be utilized.   We call that "acute remunerative medicine."

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