Spinal fractures can occur anywhere along the spinal cord at the cervical region in the neck, or at the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. Most fractures occur in the thoracic and lumbar regions while they’re least likely to occur in the neck. The biggest risk of spinal fractures is an injury to the spinal cord which may cause numbness and paralysis.
In choosing a treatment modality for you, Dr. Adam Camp will first determine what type of fracture you have and then give you personalized treatment. There are different types of spinal fractures including compression fractures of the vertebral body due to excess pressure on the bone which is wedge-shaped, bone dislocation due to tearing of the ligament, and a combination of a fracture and a dislocation.
How Do Spinal Fractures Present Themselves?
The symptoms of spinal fractures depend on the region that is affected. The most common symptoms include pain in the neck, thorax or lower back regions, numbness, or paresthesia. If the fracture occurs in the lumbar region, it may injure the nerves that supply the bladder and bowels resulting in incontinence of urine and stool.
You may also experience weakness of muscles and paralysis that is caused by damage to the spine. Other symptoms include height loss, deformities, and inability to move the spinal cord. These spinal fractures can be caused by physical trauma to the back, weakness of the vertebra that occurs in osteoporosis, and tumors along the spine. Road traffic accidents cause almost 50% of all spinal fractures.
You should consult a doctor after you undergo physical trauma when you have back pain that does not go away, when you have unexplained weight loss or a history of cancer, when you experience numbness or paralysis, and if you experience urine or fecal incontinence along with a fever.
The diagnosis of a spinal fracture is concluded after a thorough medical history and physical examination. The doctor then orders imaging tests like x-ray, MRI, or CT scan to confirm whether there is a fracture, the fracture location, and the severity of the fracture.
How Are Spinal Fractures Treated?
Treatment of fractures depends on the location, severity, and patient characteristics. The treatment can be medical or surgical. Medical treatment includes painkillers to manage the pain or immobilizing the area to prevent further soft tissue injury by using braces for 3 months. Surgical treatment is done for severe cases and includes vertebroplasty with acrylic bone cement to strengthen and stabilize the vertebral bones.
Another procedure called kyphoplasty can also be carried out using a balloon to straighten the spine and then using bone cement to increase the stability of the spine. Sacroplasty can also be done on the sacrum using bone cement.
Who Should Get Spine Surgery for a Kyphoplasty?
Patients with osteoporosis, cancer metastasis in the spine, necrosis of vertebral bones, and those with hemangiomas of the vertebrae can get spinal cord surgery. Qualified candidates are those that do not have bacterial infections or inflammation of the bone marrow, clotting abnormalities, nerve damage that is not caused by fractures, abnormal spinal curvature that is not caused by osteoporosis, a fracture that has lasted for more than 12 months, more than 80% damage of the vertebral body or a fracture that can be treated conservatively.
Spinal fractures can occur anywhere along the spine from the neck, thorax, to the sacrum. These fractures present themselves with back pain, numbness, loss of height, or paralysis. Treatment of the fractures depends on their location and severity and can be treated medically or surgically. Fractures may also occur due to underlying medical conditions like bone cancer.