Spinal Fracture Care

How do Spinal fracture occur?

Spinal fractures usually occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents, gun shots or sport injuries. Spinal injuries may range from minor ligament and muscle strains to fractures and dislocations of vertebrae to crippling spinal cord injuries. Depending upon the severity of the injury you may feel severe pain and inability it move your legs and arms. Mild fracture heals by treatments in the conservative methods. But for severe fractures which include the fractures of vertebrae and injuries to spinal code may need surgical procedure to realign the bones.

Spine is a column of 33 vertebrae placed one over the other. In between them there are discs which act as shock absorbers for the spine. Spine provides support to the body allowing it to stand upright, bend up and down and twist to different sides. Behind each vertebra there is hollow space which forms the cavity and safe passage called spinal canal through which spine travels. Spine starts from brain and branches to different parts of the body through the openings in the spine.

Generally spine fractures are classified into three categories.

1. Fractures

Application of sudden downward force may shatter and break the vertebrae. If the force is too much, it may send the bone fragments into the spinal canal also. People with osteoporosis and tumors that weaken the bones are prone to fractures known as vertebral compression fractures (VCF). When there are multiple VCF there is a possibility of a forward hunch to spine which is known as kyphosis.

2. Dislocations

When a stretching force is applied to the ligaments or discs they may stretch out and get torn which will result in improper alignment of the vertebrae. For example when a car suddenly applies its break a rapid compressive force will be applied by the seat belt and it will  cause the vertebra under the seat belt to dislocate compared to the relatively unstressed vertebra below and above the seat belt. A dislocated vertebra will cause spinal cord compression which may necessitate a surgical intervention.

3. Fracture dislocation

When breaking of bones and tearing of ligaments take place simultaneously it comes under the category of fracture dislocations. These fractures are very unstable and are often repaired surgically.

How is Spinal fracture Diagnosed?

As most cases of spinal fracture are related to accidents or similar incidents the patients are usually admitted to the emergency room. The doctors will assess your breathing pattern and perform a physical examination. A neck brace or back brace will be used until the diagnosis is completed. X-rays of your vertebrae will be helpful in determining whether any of them have fractures. Computed tomography is a procedure which helps the surgeon to have a two dimensional view of the spine with which he can confirm the changes in the bony structures. Magnetic resonance imaging is a non invasive procedure which helps to evaluate spinal code injuries and the damages to the soft tissues such as ligaments and discs.

What are the treatment for spinal fracture?

Treatment for spinal fracture starts with management of pain and stabilization techniques to prevent further injury. Depending upon the severity of the fracture other treatment options like bracing and surgical methods are adopted.

Braces and orthotics

Use of braces and orthotics are intended to maintain the alignment of the spine. This also helps to immobilize the spine during healing and
reduce pain by restricting the movements. Braces are usually discontinued after 8 to 12 weeks of usage.

Instrumentation and fusion

Fusion is the surgical process of joining together of two vertebrae with the help of plates, rods, hooks etc.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty

These are non invasive procedures used for the treatment of spinal tumors. Injection of bone cement using a needle in between the vertebrae is done in vertebroplasty. In kyphoplasty a balloon is inserted between the vertebrae and is inflated to expand the vertebrae to its original form.

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