What is a Spinal Fracture?
As we age, Osteoporosis can cause the bones to thin and makes them more susceptible to fractures. Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine. If put under enough stress, the bones of the spinal vertebrae may start to crack, causing intense pain, loss of strength, and in extreme cases, loss of feeling.
Causes of Spinal Fractures
The most common causes of Spinal Fractures include sports injuries and related trauma, usually stemming from a specific traumatic impact. Vehicular accidents also contribute highly to rates of Spinal Fracture for this reason. The bones in human body also weaken with age, patients with osteoporosis can even experience spinal fractures from everyday activities or falling down.
Types of Spinal Fractures
A vertebral compression fracture will most commonly occur in the lower back, or “lumbar” spine, and cause pain that gets worse the more patients move, particularly when changing positions. Neurosurgeons typically sort Spinal Fractures into 3 different categories:
Wedge Fractures: The most common form of Spinal Fracture. It occurs when the front of the vertebra collapses but the back of the vertebra remains intact. While usually less painful, Wedge Fractures may lead to deformities such as a hunchback.
Crush Fractures: Occurs when the entire vertebrae cracks and collapses front-to-back. This fracture causes more pain than a wedge fracture, and can add pressure onto the spinal nerve.
Burst Fracture: The most severe form of Spinal Fracture. Similar to a Crush Fracture, but with pieces of the shattered bone pushing outward into the surrounding tissue. This fracture causes intense pain and patients may experience loss of feeling in the legs, or even lose control of their bladders or bowels. Neurosurgeons urge patients to seek immediate medical attention.
How Do Neurosurgeons Treat a Spinal Fracture?
Conservative Treatments for Spinal Fractures
Physicians will first examine the patient to determine the severity of the fracture. Patients may receive X Rays, MRI scans or CT scans to pinpoint the damaged vertebra. If a Neurosurgeon determines that they can deal with a spinal fracture conservatively, they may prescribe limited pain medication and that the patient rest for 6 – 8 weeks in order to heal. If physicians determine Osteoporosis as a contributing factor to the injury, they may also treat patients for bone density loss.
Surgical Treatment for Spinal Fractures
If Neurosurgeons determine a Spinal Fracture serious enough for surgical intervention, patients may consider undergoing a Kyphoplasty, or Vertebroplasty. Both non-invasive, these surgeries involve inserting a needle into the fractured vertebra and injecting the injured area with a special bone-cement. This cement fills the cracks of the bone, strengthening the vertebra once again.
Recovery From Spinal Fracture Surgery
Kyphoplasty usually does not require stitches, and patients may sometimes even leave the hospital as little as 1 hour after waking up from surgery. As a procedure with a track record of good patient outcomes, patients who receive a Kyphoplasty return to their daily activities extremely quickly.