A new study has suggested that vertebroplasty can provide relief from pain to some patients and contradicted a similar research conducted last year that found the procedure of compressing vertebrae to be a sham.

Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure in which a type of stabilizing cement is injected into the affected part of the spine.

According to the Dutch researchers who took up this study, the procedure can be a safe and effective treatment for some people with weak bones who fracture the small bones in their spine as a result of an acute osteoporotic vertebral compression fracture.

"Pain relief after the procedure is immediate, sustained for one year, and is significantly better than that achieved with conservative treatment and at acceptable costs," writes Dr. Caroline Klazen, who led a team of researchers from St. Elisabeth Ziekenhuis in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers studied 431 patients, aged 50 or older, with osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures. The patients had been in pain for six weeks or less. They were randomly assigned to receive vertebroplasty or conservative treatment.

Conservative treatment included taking pain relievers, ice and heat treatments, and later a stretching and back strengthen program. As many as 53 percent of participants reported that their pain spontaneously disappeared during the assessment phase of the study, the researchers say.

However, from among the 202 remaining patients, the 101 treated with vertebroplasty had greater pain relief after a month and a year, compared with those who underwent conservative treatment.

Even among those who did not get vertebroplasty, 60 percent got pain relief while the rest reported continued pain without therapy. The researchers reported no serious side effects or complications from vertebroplasty.

They revealed that one important drawback to the study was that patients and doctors knew who received which therapy and believe this could have affected patient responses and the radiologists' assessments. The findings of the study appeared in the online edition of The Lancet.

The study was funded in part by Cook Medical, which makes material used in vertebroplasty.