A spinal compression fracture develops when too much stress is placed on a vertebral segment, causing it to fracture in one of a few different ways. As we talked about in this blog, there are a few different types of spinal compression fractures, but the most common is known as a wedge fracture. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at wedge compression fractures and explain how a spine specialist like Dr. Chang can help you treat them.
What Is A Wedge Fracture?
As we alluded to in the intro, a wedge fracture is the most common type of spinal compression fracture. It develops when the front of the vertebra collapses as a result of excess pressure on the bone. Thankfully, with this type of fracture, the back of the vertebra remains intact, giving the bone a wedge-like shape (hence the name). Another positive thing about this type of fracture is that because the back of the vertebra remains intact, the fracture site is typically considered stable.
These wedge fractures are most common when an acute moment of stress is placed on the spinal column. As you might imagine, car accidents are the leading cause of wedge fractures, while falls and athletic injuries also make up a sizable portion. Wedge fractures are categorized by pain in the arms, back or legs, numbness or weakness in the extremities and limited range of motion in the spine.
Treating Wedge Fractures
The good news is that stable fractures tend to heal well without surgical intervention. That’s not to say that you don’t need to be seen by a spine specialist if you suspect you have a wedge fracture, but rehab shouldn’t be nearly as bad as a burst-style compression fracture. Even so, you still may face multiple appointments with a spine specialist if you have a wedge fracture.
The first appointment will generally be comprised of a physical assessment and imaging tests, and assuming the fracture site is stable, follow up appointments will be needed to ensure recovery goes as expected. Your spine specialist will want to keep a close eye on your recovery, because if the vertebra doesn’t heal as expected or the site becomes unstable, intervention will be required.
With that said, if the fracture results in more than 50 percent vertebral height loss, surgery may be necessary. In most instances, this is performed using a spinal fusion operation. This procedure fuses two adjacent vertebrae together to limit movement at the fusion site and to add height to the vertebral section.
Dr. Chang has performed numerous spinal fusions for these types of fractures, and he’d be more than happy to provide you with the care you need if your wedge fracture requires surgery. For more information, or for help with any back issues you may be experiencing, reach out to Dr. Chang and his team today at (651) 430-3800.