Optimisation of vertebroplasty to minimise adjacent vertebral failure

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Many elderly people suffer from osteoporosis, which causes their bones to break very easily. One of the most common places for a fracture to occur is in the vertebrae of the spine. These fractures are difficult to treat and many patients suffer from long-term pain. Recently, a new method of keyhole surgery has been introduced to treat these types of injury. The treatment, called 'vertebroplasty' involves injecting a special cement through a fine needle into the spine to hold the fracture together. Early results have been positive, with the majority of patients saying they are in much less pain after the treatment. However, recently there have been reports that vertebroplasty may increase the risk of the patient having more fractures in the surrounding vertebrae. At the moment, little is know about how stiff the cement should be or how much to inject. The aim of this project is to develop computer models of the spine that can be used to predict what effects the cement will have on the surrounding region of the spine. To check these models make the right predictions, the results first need to be checked against experimental tests undertaken in the laboratory. Then, the computer models will be used to compare many different types and volumes of cement. The aim is to find the optimum combination that will reduce the risk of more fractures happening in the surrounding vertebrae.


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Description EPSRC Challenging Engineering
Amount £1,062,951 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/F010575/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2008 
End 04/2013
Description ERC Starting grant
Amount € 1,500,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 12/2012 
End 11/2017
Description ULTRASPINE: Ultrasound-Enabled Minimally Invasive Disc Replacement
Amount £991,843 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K020757/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2018
Title microCT vertebra database 
Description Database of over 50 high resolution scans of vertebrae made using microCT 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact follow-on funding obtained to use database to develop new modelling methods for spine to represent patient variation (EPSRC IKC proof of concept) and ERC Starting grant 
Description Local engagement activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Stands always very popular with large numbers of delegates attending and requests to hold follow-on activities with schools and exhibit at future events.

Extremely positive feedback from attendees, teachers and parents, leading to increasing requests to provide exhibits for other events
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013