A Burst Fracture is a serious injury that shatters a vertebral bone in the spine. A burst fracture happens when extreme vertical force is placed on the spinal column, causing compression of a section of vertebrae to the degree that it breaks and spreads in all directions. 14% of all spine injuries are burst fractures, which occur at the junction between the thoracic and lumbar section or at the lumbar level. The damage is caused by a single episode of trauma from events such as a motor vehicle crash or falling from a height. Burst fractures are a significant medical emergency that needs immediate hospitalization due to the possibility of damage to the spinal cord.
The primary symptoms of a burst fracture are severe pain at the level of the injury. An individual may also experience electric shock -type sensations, numbness, or weakness in the legs, and will be unable to walk right after the episode. Safe transport of the person to the receiving medical center is imperative. The individual should not sit or stand, as this may worsen the condition, and should only be moved while lying flat.
A burst fracture is diagnosed through review of results from an X-ray, MRI, and CT scan. A specific exam will be conducted by the physician to assess spinal deformity and will evaluate neurological function by testing lower extremity strength, sensation, and reflexes of lower extremities. Bladder, bowel and sphincter control is also assessed.
Treatment for a burst fracture is dependent on whether there is an injury to the spinal cord. If no injury exists, then pain medication will be prescribed, and a brace to support the damaged area should be worn for several weeks. If the spinal cord has been affected, then surgery will be necessary. Surgical intervention will start with cleaning out the fragmented bone bacterial, followed by installation of hardware (metal plating, rods, and screws) to straighten the spine, and finishing with a vertebral fusion.
If you are suffering from back pain and would like to find out if you are a candidate for the treatment options we offer, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.