Developing a pathway of care
Bones & Joints Many people who get spinal fractures in Ireland are never treated for the underlying disease: osteoporosis. Reasons for this include lack of knowledge and resources.
Mr John McCabe, Spine Surgeon at Galway University Hospitals, emphasises that early screening and diagnosis of osteoporotic fractures is vital.
“With people living longer, it’s inevitable that a high proportion will suffer from bone weakness meaning there is an increase in people developing an acute, painful condition of the spine, where they develop a fracture. Osteoporosis isn’t purely an elderly disease - it can also effect anyone from young female athletes to active males.”
Balloon kyphoplasty is the key surgical procedure for treating osteoporotic fractures where a cement-like material is injected into the fractured bone. However, Mr McCabe, who is also president of the Irish Spine Society, explains that this is currently poorly supported in Ireland and access to spinal specialists with his level of expertise is low.
“Balloon kyphoplasty patients can expect a significant reduction in pain, an increase in their quality of life and maintenance of a normal lifestyle," says Mr McCabe, who performed the first kyphoplasty procedures in the UK and Ireland 14 years ago. There have been over five million cases internationally over the last 15 years and in some countries it’s well-funded, but we are well behind.”
“The treatment is there, the need is there, but unfortunately the services aren’t. We need a structure that we can roll out in the Irish health service for people with these fractures, a simple pathway for family doctors and their patients. We will fight our corner and try to get the resources allocated to develop services, but there needs to be a focus on it on a national level.”