Spinal Fractures

Cervical Spine

Neurosurgery Spinal Fracture Photo

The cervical spine include the bones from the base of the skull to the level of the shoulders. Fractures usually occur with impact injuries to the head, such as a fall or sports injuries like diving into a shallow pool. Injuries to the cervical spine can result in temporary or permanent paralysis from the neck down. Patients may or may not experience neck pain or may have pain in the shoulders and arms from damaged nerves.

Immediate stabilization is important. While minor fractures can be managed with a brace and immobilization, more serious injuries will require surgery to reduce pressure on the nerves and spinal cord and to stabilize the spine.

Thoracic and Lumbar Spine

Thoracic and lumbar spine fractures involve the area from the shoulders to the buttocks. Fractures may be caused by a traumatic injury such as a fall, car crash, or sports injury. Fractures may also occur in normal activity in bones that have been weakened by osteoporosis.

Symptoms of thoracic or lumbar fractures include:

  • Back pain that is worse with movement or activity
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Surgical treatment is varied depending on other injuries after a traumatic event and on the type and location of the fracture. Minor fractures may be managed with a brace and immobilization. The goals of surgical intervention are to return the spinal bones to their correct position and alignment, to reduce pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves connected to it, and to allow for movement. Surgery may be performed from the back, front or side and often includes support elements, such as screws, rods or other hardware to ensure stability.

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