New Procedure at WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital Reduces Pain, Need for Opioids

GLEN DALE — A medical procedure now being performed at WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital to treat spinal compression fractures can alleviate patients’ excruciating pain and, as a result, eliminate the need for opioid-based medication.

The treatment, known as kyphoplasty, is “an opioid-sparing procedure,” said Dr. David Hess, president and CEO of Reynolds.

Dr. Michael J. Maroney, chairman of radiology at WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital, performed the hospital’s first kyphoplasty procedure to treat a spinal compression fracture in July. Other kyphoplasty procedures have been scheduled at the hospital.

Hospital officials said Reynolds Memorial joins an elite group of facilities across West Virginia that perform this procedure.

Hess said thousands of people experience spinal compression fractures. The condition is “due mostly to having osteoporosis or weakness of bone because of age,” he explained.

“It’s incredibly painful,” Hess said of the condition. “Most have to take opioids — it (a spinal compression fracture) is horribly miserable for our patients.”

Traditionally, patients with spinal compression fractures have been treated with opioids to ease their intense pain. However, the drugs have side effects and subject patients to the risk that someone might steal their prescribed medication to sell or abuse it.

The hospital administrator and practicing physician noted that the medical community is now “trying to avoid opioids because of the opioid crisis.”

As an alternative to prescribing opioids for pain relief, “we can offer this procedure,” Hess said.

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure in which a surgeon makes a small incision above the affected area. Using X-ray guidance, the surgeon places a needle into the fractured vertebra. Bone cement is injected to stabilize the vertebra, restore height and, most importantly, relieve the patient’s pain. As an outpatient procedure, most patients go home the same day.

The bone cement serves as a filler or buffer to eliminate the condition of having bone rubbing on bone. Patients experience “immediate pain relief the next day,” Hess said, adding, “Most important, we are sparing using more opioids, which we don’t want in West Virginia.”

Another reason for incorporating kyphoplasty into the hospital’s treatment options is the fact that the area has “such an elderly population, especially in Marshall County,” he said.

“We wanted to bring another tool in the arsenal to combat compression fractures,” said Hess.

Kyphoplasty is being performed in a new, state-of-the-art procedure room in the catheterization lab at Reynolds Memorial Hospital.

“It’s one of the reasons we redid our cath lab,” he said. “It has the most up-to-date equipment in the region. These procedures can be done in that cath lab. The updating of the cath lab allowed us to be able to offer this procedure locally.”

Hess said he thinks performing kyphoplasty in Glen Dale is beneficial to patients, who won’t have to travel far from home to have the procedure done.

“We’re excited to continue to broaden our scope of practice at Reynolds Memorial Hospital,” he said. “With the resources of WVU Medicine, we continue to grow and expand to provide quality care close to home.”

The procedure to treat a spinal compression fracture “is not usually repeated.

“Usually, it’s a one-time deal,” said Hess. “You find the level of the spine that is affected with an X-ray and MRI. Once you locate it, you do the procedure and usually it is good for life.”

However, a person with osteoporosis may develop a compression fracture at a different level of the spine at a later time. If that occurs, the patient “may have to come in for another procedure at another level,” Hess said.

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