Compression Fractures of the Spine
How are compresion fractures caused in the spine?
When the spine receives a big amount of force from an outer source being a vehicle in an accident, or cement from a great fall, the vertebrae gets severely compressed or even completely crushed. We call that a burst fracture of the spine. The term burst implies that the margins of the vertebral body spread out in all directions. An injury of that sort is extremely dangerous since it can cause partial neurologic injury or paralysis. A neurologic injury in a burst fracture which has 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.
Extreme pain can be caused by a burst fracture. Many patients claim that the pain feels like an electric shock type sensation into their legs. The majority of patients cannot walk immediately after an injury. It is recommended not to try to walk away from the accident site. Such patients should always lie flat and be transported to the hospital in a flat position. Immediate medical care is required for burst fractures by an orthopaedic or neurosurgeon trained in spinal surgery. The patient should be transported to an emergency room where x-rays should be obtained.
How is it diagnosed?
A burst fracture is usually diagnosed through x-rays and a CAT scan. A surgeon may also request an MRI in some cases where soft tissue trauma, bleeding or ligament disruption must be assessed. These allow physicians to determine the amount of spinal canal compromise and spinal angulation and therefore enable them to proceed to a successful treatment process.
Also, they may request a neurologic exam in order to test the muscle strength, the sensation and the reflexes of the lower extremities, along with the bowel and bladder control of the patient.