- When you think about something “bursting,” you probably imagine an object erupting into a number of pieces.
- Burst fractures are similar in nature, and they can be significant health threats if they’re left untreated.
- The spine specialists at Orthopedic & Wellness discuss the treatment and recovery process of burst fractures.
A burst fracture is a descriptive medical term that explains what happens when spinal vertebrae are severely crushed. Due to the nature of burst fractures, it’s not difficult to understand why these injuries are common in motor vehicle accidents and traumatic falls. When a strong force is applied to the spinal column, vertebrae become susceptible to serious damage and may burst into small fragments. These shards of vertebral bone may enter the spinal canal and surrounding tissues resulting in:
- Back pain that worsens with movement
- Numbness or tingling along the spine
- Impaired bowel function
- Partial or total paralysis
If the burst fracture is relatively minor, nonsurgical treatment options may be administered to reduce pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. If the burst fracture is moderate or severe, surgery will be the first line of defense to prevent paralysis or injury to motor and sensory nerves. A surgeon at Orthopedic & Wellness may perform a minimally invasive spine surgery called kyphoplasty to repair “stable” compression fractures.
This procedure uses an inflatable balloon-like device and bone cement to mend the fracture and restore its height. A physician will administer general anesthesia and position the patient in a way to ensure proper height restoration and prevent a secondary fragment dislocation.
During the procedure, a physician will make a small incision around the affected area and use a fluoroscope to help guide him or her to the vertebral fracture. Once located, the balloon will be inserted into the damaged vertebrae and gently inflated. After a cavity has been created inside the vertebrae, the special cement will be injected into the fracture and allowed time to harden or “set.”
If the patient has more than one vertebral fracture, each one will be treated during this time. After the procedure, patients will be set to a room to recover. Patients may experience a significant reduction in their pain several days after the procedure.
Although kyphoplasty is the standard treatment option for most compression fractures, a spinal fusion may be performed on patients with extensive fractures that require the removal of bone fragments within the spinal canal.
Unstable burst fractures that increase a patient’s risk of neurological dysfunction will need to be operated on relatively quick. After surgery, patients will be monitored in a hospital for three to five days. X-rays will need to be taken before and after the procedure to ensure all pieces of the fracture have been removed.
Patients may need to be fit with a custom-made spinal brace to ensure reduced pain and spine stabilization throughout the recovery process. When the patient is considered “in good health,” he or she will need to begin a physical therapy program to improve function, increase range of motion, and boost flexibility. If you have questions about the procedure and recovery process for your burst fracture, please call Orthopedic & Wellness today to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.
At Orthopedic & Wellness, we are committed to a minimally invasive approach to promote efficient pain control, higher functioning, and better quality of life! If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic pain, orthopedic, neurosurgical or spine issues don't hesitate to make an appointment by calling 240-629-3939
We hope to see you soon!
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.