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Vertebroplasty for osteoporotic vertebral fracture
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  • Published on:
    Vertebroplasty, the child and the bathwater
    • Robert B.M. Landewé, Rheumatologist Amsterdam University Medical Center, The Netherlands
    • Other Contributors:
      • Alexandre Sepriano, Rheumatologist

    Some of the most compelling clinical questions are hardly amenable to experimentation in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). ‘Does vertebroplasty improve health-related quality of life in elderly patients with an acute osteoporotic fracture?’ is one of those questions that was nevertheless challenged in not less than four RCTs recently. The outcome of this challenge was a disappointment for believers in vertebroplasty (VP): one-to-three against VP, and the invasive intervention was discarded from guidelines, as Christian Roux and colleagues have beautifully explained in a recent opinionated review in RMDOpen. [1] Obviously, an unmet need remained and Roux et al. broke a lance for reconsidering VP as a treatment option in highly selected vertebral fracture (VF)-patients with a bad prognosis. They solicited proposals for clinical studies.
    Such studies should not necessarily have an RCT-design. Indisputably, RCTs provide the most unbiased results, but always at the expense of external validity. This is why clinical epidemiologists keep recalling that the absence of evidence (that VP works) does not imply that there is evidence for the absence of efficacy (of VP).
    Roux et al have a point when they claim that the trials may have focused on the wrong population, that the choice of the trials’ primary outcome was not ideal, and that the duration of follow up was too short to detect clinically meaningful effects beyond pain resolution alone. All these objections invol...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.