A fracture to the spine can occur when a trauma such as a car accident, fall or even sports-related injuries impacts the body.
When Trauma Occurs
When a sudden impact occurs to the vertebrae, the bones in the neck, upper back, and lower back can be affected as well as the section of connected bone at the base of the spinal column which is called the sacrum.
Signs and Symptoms
The initial symptom associated with spinal fractures is usually pain; however, if the spinal cord has been affected, symptoms such as weakness, paralysis, and lack of sensation may present first.
The location of the injury on the spine may yield different outcomes as damage to the spinal cord or nerves may cause pain in the arms or legs or even affect the bowel, bladder, or sexual organs.
Assessment of the Spine
As the assessment of your spine begins, your Atlanta orthopedic doctor will ask questions concerning your pain and if you have trouble moving certain parts of your body. If a spinal injury is suspected, an x-ray will be ordered to determine if a broken vertebra is present. In some cases, an MRI or a CT scan may be ordered to gain better views of the neck and back for hard to see fractures. Some spinal injuries present with a second fracture adjacent to the main fracture or other locations on the spine. With spinal injuries, activities may be limited, and a brace may need to be worn until further testing can be done.
Treating Spine Fractures
When treating spinal fractures, the goal is to realign the broken pieces and keep a proper alignment until the bone has healed correctly. As the bone heals, the healthy broken bone will naturally form bone tissue around the broken parts of the bone, correcting the fracture. Treatments and the option for natural healing may vary based on the locations of the fracture and if the damage was sustained to the tissues and nerves.
In some patients, external bracing proves effective, but with cervical fractures, a halo vest, which is a ring attached to the skull as well attached to a vest on the chest, may be necessary. Other fractures may require the need for surgical intervention to insert screws, hooks, and connecting rods as well as fusion techniques, which is when a bone graft is used to help bones to grow together. Surgery may also be suggested for patients who endure neurological injuries due to bone or disc material compressing structures in the body.
At our Atlanta spine center, our orthopedic doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating spinal fractures and providing our patients with a variety of treatment options. If you have sustained a spinal fracture, contact our team of doctors today at (404) 855-2141 for a consultation!