Fracture (cont.)

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Compression fracture

As people age, there is a potential for the bones to develop osteoporosis, a condition where bones lose their calcium content. This makes bone more susceptible to breaking. One such type of injury is a compression fracture to the spine, most often the thoracic or lumbar spine. Since we are an upright animal, if the bones of the back cannot withstand the force of gravity these bones can crumple. Pain is the major complaint, especially with movement and often there is an acute event where pain is felt. There may or not be a fall or injury associated with the pain as compression fractures may occur spontaneously.

Compression injuries of the back may or may not be associated with nerve or spinal cord injury. An X-ray of the back can reveal the bone injury, however, sometimes a CT scan or MRI will be used to insure that no damage is done to the spinal cord. However, if there is a loss of bowel control or the inability to urinate (urinary retention), the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, requires an emergent MRI to assure that the spinal cord is not at risk of permanent damage.

Treatment includes pain medication and often a back brace. Some compression fractures can also be treated with vertebroplasty. Vertebroplasty involves inserting a glue-like material into the center of the collapsed spinal vertebra in order to stabilize and strengthen the crushed bone. The glue (methylmethacrylate) is inserted with a needle and syringe through anesthetized skin into the midportion of the vertebra under the guidance of specialized X-ray equipment. Once inserted, the glue soon hardens, forming a cast-like structure within the compressed vertebra. However, there are studies and controversy whether this procedure is effective and beneficial.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/9/2013

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Fracture - Describe Your Experience Question: Please describe what type of fracture you experienced.
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