Vertebral Compression Fracture
Vertebral compression fracture occurs when a part in the vertebra collapses due to the compression of the bone in the spine. With age, vertebrae is weakened and loses its strength and leads to a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a kind of bone loss that causes bones to break easily. Osteoporosis is the leading cause of vertebral compression fractures especially in the age group of 40 to 50 and above. Post menopausal women and men above the age of 65 years are at highest risk of suffering from vertebral compression fractures.
Apart from osteoporosis, there could be other reasons that lead to vertebral compression fractures. Young adults suffer from vertebral fractures due to spinal injuries during rigorous exercises, sports activities or accidents. These compression fractures normally heal within 8 to 10 weeks with good rest and pain medication. Vertebral compression fractures may also be attributed to cancer tumors associated with multiple myeloma and metastatic bone disease. In very rare cases, infection or Osteomyelitis of the vertebra also results in compression fractures.
Wedge fractures are the most common type of compression fractures wherein the front part of the vertebral body collapses and becomes wedge shaped. Other types of vertebral compression fractures include biconcave (collapse of central portion of vertebral body) crush fractures (collapse of entire vertebral body). These fractures happen most commonly in the thoracic spine (the middle portion of the spine), and lumbar spine (low back).
Symptoms of Vertebral compression fracture
Compression fractures caused by injuries produce sudden onset of sharp and throbbing pain. Fractures caused by osteoporosis may cause very mild to severe pain in the back. Normally the pain is intense in standing posture and there is respite when lying down.
Vertebral compression fractures also lead to kyphosis and loss of height especially with the fractures associated with osteoporosis.
Sometimes a severely fractured bone can impinge on the spinal cord. Thus, numbness or tingling in limbs or other areas of the body may occur if the spinal cord is affected. This can impair sensation in the areas supplied by the damaged nerve tissue.
Doctor's evaluation of symptoms plays a major role in diagnosing compression fractures. Noting of complete history of the patient and clinical examination are necessary to determine the presence of vertebral compression fracture. When doctor suspects vertebral compression fracture, an x ray is ordered to confirm the diagnosis. If the X-Ray reveals a fracture, further imaging tests like CT scan and MRI are performed to rule out the involvement of spinal cord and also to understand the age of the fracture. A neurological exam may also be done to test for reflexes, muscle strength and sensory perception.
Treating Vertebral Compression Fracture
The conventional methods of treating vertebral compression fractures include pain medication, rest and bracing. While pain medication helps in alleviating the pain to some extent, back braces reduce the chance of further collapse of the bone, prevent deformity, and allow injuries to heal by taking the pressure off the fractured vertebral bone. Giving rest to the back by decreasing activities as much as possible helps in healing the fractures naturally and quickly.
There are also some minimally invasive methods used to treat vertebral fractures which are gaining popularity. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty are two medical procedures that are increasingly being used to treat compression fractures. Here the fracture is treated by injecting a bone cement onto the collapsed bone through hollow needle. These are image-guided surgical procedures with minimum invasion that promise faster pain relief.
Further treatment also depends upon the underlying cause that is leading to vertebral fracture. If the osteoporosis is causing the bones to collapse, doctor may prescribe calcium and other bone strengthening supplements to avoid future compression fractures. If a tumor has caused compression fracture, more invasive surgery will be required remove sections of bone or tissue.
Fractures of the pelvis account only for about 0.3-6% of all fractures. A pelvic fracture can simply be described as a break in one or more bones comprising the pelvis. Pelvic fracture is a serious condition and requires immediate medical intervention.
Symptoms of pelvic fracture include severe pain in the groin, hip or lower back area. The pain is bound to worsen when moving the legs. There may be pain in the abdomen and numbness and tingling sensation in the groin or legs. Bleeding from the vagina, urethra or rectum is often noticed with pelvic fractures. There may be difficulty in urinating and difficulty in walking or standing.
Types of Pelvic fractures
Stable or unstable pelvic fractures: In stable pelvic fracture, there is minimal hemorrhage. The break occurs in one point in the pelvic ring. In unstable pelvic fracture, the pelvis becomes unstable. The break occurs in two or more break points in the pelvic ring. There occurs moderate to severe hemorrhage.
Open or closed pelvic fractures: If open skin wound occurs during the fracture in the lower abdomen, it is called open pelvic fracture. If no skin wounds occur, then it is closed pelvic fracture.
Diagnostic tests such as x-rays, CT scans are used to diagnose pelvic fractures. MRI allow a detailed picture of the pelvic area. Abdominal ultrasound is used to find internal bleeding and other injuries within the abdomen. Urethrography may be conducted to check injuries in urethra by means of an injected dye. Arteriography, in which dye is injected in the arteries to check for internal bleeding within the pelvis, is sometimes used.
Treatment to the pelvic fracture depends upon the severity of the injury caused. A pelvic fracture is a serious injury. In some cases, it may be complicated with injuries in other parts of the body and severe shock as well. Sometimes severe internal and external bleeding and damage to the internal organs could occur. In these situations, immediate attempt is made by the emergency doctor to stop internal and external bleeding caused by the injury. In case of minor fracture, the treatment would merely consist of bed rest and painkillers.
Most of the times, surgery is undertaken to repair the pelvic fracture. Healing after surgery can take anywhere between few weeks to several months. Thus a lengthy rehabilitation becomes necessary after an extensive pelvic surgery.
A fracture is called an avulsion fracture when the injury occurs in a place where a tendon or ligament that attaches to the bone pulls off a piece of the bone. It is common to notice avulsion fractures occur around the pelvis area, though they can occur anywhere in the body. More than adults, children are more prone to avulsion fracture, because a child's bone may give away before the ligament or tendon is injured whereas in adults, ligaments get injured more. Children have an area of bone that grows faster. This area in the skeleton is known as a growth plate. When an injury occurs in children near a growth plate, the tendons or ligaments can pull very hard and it will lead to a fracture of the growth plate. Growth plates are necessary for normal skeletal development of a child and so, avulsion fractures must be treated with utmost care. Surgery is the only option, to align the growth plate and stabilize it. If there is no danger of lasting growth problems and if the avulsion fracture is well aligned, then surgery is not necessary.
Normally, avulsion fractures can be treated without surgery since it is treated as a soft-tissue injury. An avulsion fracture of the hamstring attachment on the pelvis can be treated in the same way as a hamstring tear. Surgery is considered only when the bone is pulled too far from its original position. Some ankle sprains where the damaged ankle ligaments pull off a tiny piece of a bone from the joint are treated like an ankle sprain. Avulsion fractures in children are more complicated.
Avulsion fracture of the pelvis
Teenagers and sports persons are susceptible to a type of pelvic fracture. Often some of the pulled muscles may end in an avulsion fracture not detected earlier. The muscle in the pelvic area tears away a small piece of bone from the top of the hip bone and there may be sudden muscle contractions. The entire pelvic ring is not involved and there is no injury to the internal organs. Avulsion fractures experienced by athletes are stable fractures and will heal without surgery. Elderly persons with osteoporosis are also at a risk for pelvic fracture. It can occur during a fall or when descending stairs. Normally the pelvic ring is not damaged but any of the individual bones of this ring may be fractured. Mostly these pelvic fractures involve high-energy forces. Motor vehicle accident, crush accident and fall are the major causes for this type of fracture. Pelvic fractures can be life-threatening depending on the amount of force involved.
Acute pain, swelling and bruises are symptoms of pelvic injuries. To avoid aggravating the pain, a patient may walk with a bent knee. There may be injuries to other parts of the body like head, legs or the chest, if the injury is due to trauma. Heavy bleeding can lead to shock should be arrested immediately. The doctor will request for X-rays from different angles to find out the exact degree of displacement to the bones. A CT scan will reveal the extent of other injuries. It is routine to examine the blood vessels and nerves to the legs for any damage due to the injuries.
Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: March 21, 2019