Polymethylmethacrylate and radioisotopes in vertebral augmentation: An explanation of underlying principles

Ariel E. Hirsch, Barry S. Rosenstein, David C. Medich, Christopher B. Martel, Joshua A. Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We recently reported a novel concept for combining radioactive isotope technology with polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) cement used for vertebral augmentation and have advocated that pain physicians become aware of this new concept when treating malignant compression fractures. The use of vertebral augmentation for malignant compression fractures is steadily increasing, and the goal of this novel approach would be to stabilize the fractured vertebral body while also controlling proliferation of the tumor cells in the vertebral body that caused the vertebral fracture. This approach would therefore provide mechanical stabilization of the fractured vertebral body at the same time as direct targeting of the cancer cells causing the fracture. For our analysis, we investigated six specific radioisotopes with regard to physical and biologic properties as they would interact with PMMA and local bone metastatic disease, taking into consideration anatomical, biological and physical characteristics. The radioisotopes investigated include beta emitting (plus and minus) sources, as well as low energy and mid-energy photon sources and are: P-32, Ho-166, Y-90, I-125, F-18, and Tc-99m. We review the advantages and disadvantages of each radioisotope. In addition, this paper serves to provide pain physicians with a basic background of the biologic principles (Biologically Effective Dose) and statistical modeling (Monte Carlo method) used in that analysis. We also review the potential complications when using radioactive sources in a clinical setting. Understanding the methodologies employed in determining isotope selection empowers the practitioner by fostering understanding of this presently theoretical treatment option. We believe that embedding radioisotopes in PMMA is merely a first step in the road of local treatment for symptomatic local lesions in the setting of systemic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-891
Number of pages5
JournalPain Physician
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Augmentation
  • Biologically
  • Dose
  • Effective
  • Monte Carlo
  • Polymethylmethacrylate
  • Radioisotopes
  • Vertebral


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