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Health Spotlight: Helping weak bones heal

(Photo from Video Aired on WISH)

(WISH) — Fractures can be painful and debilitating. For most people, the pain only lasts for months, but some can be left with a lifetime of hurt.

Now, a first-of-its-kind procedure is helping patients living in pain to become pain-free.

Pathologic fractures happen in bones that have already been weakened by disease, usually cancer that has spread to the bone.

Now, a breakthrough procedure is helping to stabilize one of the largest bones in the body and give relief to thousands of people.

Dr. Daniel Lerman, an orthopedic oncologist at Denver-based Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, talked about one patient. “This woman was at home, sneezed, sustained a pelvic fracture, and, after that, she was wheelchair-bound and bedbound. She said she wished she could die because the pain was so bad.”

Lerman is part of a team at the medical center that’s developed a minimally invasive pelvic-stabilization procedure to ease the pain. People who have pathologic pelvic or sacrum fractures can face a lifetime of pain.

“The sacrum is really the keystone of the pelvis. So, if there’s a sacral fracture, anytime somebody moves, they have significant pain.”

In the procedure, CT scans pinpoint the eroded bone. Through 1-centimeter incisions, surgeons use bone cement and large screws to reinforce the area. “Think of them about the size of a stainless-steel ballpoint pen,” the doctor said.

Physicians also use balloon implants in areas where the bone is missing. It’s less invasive, and patients wake up feeling better and can leave the hospital the same day.

“When I have a patient who says their pain is so bad that they can’t even enjoy being with their family and then, after the procedure, they’re home and they’re engaged in their normal activities, I mean, as a physician, there’s no greater thrill.”

Another benefit of the minimally invasive procedure is that patients can stay on their chemotherapies, radiation, and their immune therapies throughout the procedure, which is vital to keeping the patient cancer-free while helping them to be pain-free at the same time.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.