Compression Fractures of the Spine
When the spine accepts a great deal of force from an outer source being a vehicle in an accident, or cement from a great fall, the vertebrae becomes severely compressed or even totally crushed. That is called a burst fracture of the spine. The term burst implies that the margins of the vertebral body spread out in all directions. In this case, such injury is extremely dangerous since it can cause paralysis or partial neurologic injury. Such neurologic injury in a burst fracture occurred at the junction of the thoracic and lumbar spines can lead to paralysis of the legs as well as loss of control of the bowel and bladder.
Burst fracture can cause severe pain. Many patients describe this type of pain as an electric shock type sensation into their legs. Most of them cannot walk immediately after an injury feeling that something is very wrong and it would be better not to try to walk away from the accident site. Such patients should always lie flat and be transported to the hospital at a flat position. Burst fractures require immediate medical care by an orthopaedic or neurosurgeon trained in spinal surgery. The patient should be transported to an emergency room and x-rays should be obtained.
Diagnosis is made usually through x-rays and a CAT scan or if surgeon orders an MRI as well in case soft tissue trauma, bleeding or ligament disruption should be assessed. All the following allow physicians to determine the amount of spinal canal compromise and spinal angulation and therefore enable them to proceed to a successful treatment process. They might as well request a neurologic exam in order to test the muscle strength, the sensation and the reflexes of the lower extremities, as well as, the bowel and bladder control of the patient.