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Objective: During recent years, the benefits of balloon kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty have been frequently discussed for the treatment of osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures. Because of the lack of comparative studies, we performed an investigation to describe the mechanical effects and the impact on life quality during a follow-up period of 2 years.

Methods: Patients with nonrecent fractures of vertebral bodies, ongoing bone remodeling, and major kyphotic deformity were treated with minimal invasive stabilization. The median duration of pain was 8 weeks before surgery. Because of the availability of the equipment, 28 patients were nonrandomly assigned to balloon kyphoplasty and 23 patients to vertebroplasty. The follow-up was performed 2 years after surgery.

Results: The kyphotic wedge of the vertebral bodies was decreased 6[degrees] by balloon kyphoplasty but not by vertebroplasty. With both methods, we found a rapid decrease of pain down to one-half of the preoperative value. A long-lasting effect on pain was found only after balloon kyphoplasty. In the kyphoplasty group, a decrease of the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score was found during the first postoperative year. After 2 years, the ODI was not different from preoperative values in both groups.

Conclusions: In nonrecent fractures, the reduction of the kyphotic wedge by balloon kyphoplasty was superior in decreasing pain persisting over a period of 2 years. The ability to improve disability after kyphoplasty was limited to 1 year. In nonrecent fractures, the consequences of age and osteoporosis seem to equalize the effects of the restored sagittal profile on disability but not on pain.

(C) 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.