Spinal fractures occur when a vertebrae becomes overloaded with stress. Oftentimes this occurs during moments of direct trauma, like in a car accident or while playing sports. That being said, spinal fractures can occur during much more mundane activities, especially as we get older and our bones get weaker. Actions like falling a short distance or even sneezing can cause a spinal fracture to occur. Today, we explain what conservative care options you have for spinal fractures, and we walk you through a couple different surgical techniques.
Non-Surgical Spinal Fracture Treatment
More than one million people suffer a spinal fracture each year, but that doesn’t mean everybody needs surgery. Similar to a fracture in your arm or leg, oftentimes there’s not a lot the surgeon can do to expedite healing. In these cases, the best course of treatment is to try and immobilize the fractured bone and ensure that it begins to heal correctly, so your doctor will conduct imaging tests at the outset and throughout your recovery. Common conservative care treatments include:
- Pain medication
- Vitamin supplements to strengthen your bones
- External bracing to immobilize the spine.
Surgical Spinal Fractures Treatments
As we mentioned above, the majority of spinal fractures heal without surgery, but that doesn’t mean surgery is out of the question. If your doctor is concerned about the vertebrae healing correctly, or if the fracture is jeopardizing the stability of your spine, surgery may be your best option.
There are three common surgical options to treat spinal fractures. They are Kyphoplasty, Spinal Fusion and Vertebroplasty.
Kyphoplasty – A kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive operation for people suffering from a spinal compression fracture. The operation typically has three goals: To significantly reduce back pain, to restore normal spinal alignment, and to prevent further damage in the event the fracture did not heal correctly on its own. The minimally invasive operation involves inserting bone cement into the fracture opening, which quickly hardens and provides stability.
Spinal Fusion – As the name implies, a spinal fusion procedure involves fusing vertebrae together to increase stability and to maintain spinal alignment. Your surgeon will either perform a single-level fusion, in which two neighboring vertebrae are fused together, or they’ll perform a multi-level fusion, in which two or more spinal vertebrae are fused together. This operation is reserved for individuals whose vertebrae have shifted during fracture.
Vertebroplasty – A vertebroplasty is another minimally invasive operation in which the surgeon inserts a biopsy needle into the fracture site with the help of a real-time x-ray system called a fluoroscope. The needle is filled with a specialized acrylic bone cement that works to create an internal cast to stabilize the fracture site. The whole procedure only takes about 15-30 minutes, and then the patient will be taken to a recovery room until the anesthesia wears off. Complications are rare, and success rates for this operation are above 90 percent.
For more information about your options after a spinal fracture, or if you’ve been dealing with back pain and you want to talk to a doctor, contact Dr. Chang today!