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Effective Treatments for Spinal Compression Fractures

A common injury among older adults is called a spinal compression fracture, which occurs when one or more of the spinal bones, called vertebrae, collapse. These fractures can happen to anyone, but are more common among older women with osteoporosis. In fact, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates that spinal compression fractures affect as many as 1 in every 4 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis in the U.S. and as many as 40% of women age 80 and older. Unfortunately, those who have had one osteoporotic spinal compression fracture have a fivefold risk of having another, making it very important to reduce the likelihood of falls.

Symptoms of a spinal compression fracture may include:

  • Sudden, severe back pain that increases with movement
  • Diminished pain while resting or lying on the back
  • Limited spinal mobility
  • A gradual loss of height
  • Noticeable deformity
  • Disability from improper healing

Nonsurgical Treatment of Spinal Compression Fractures

Many who suffer a spinal compression fracture heal with nonsurgical treatments. Your orthopedic/spine specialist may recommend physical therapy, a well-fitted back brace, pain medication, bone density stabilizing medication, and activity modifications. Your doctor will also help advise how to prevent future falls if it was a fall that caused your fracture.

When conservative, nonsurgical treatments fail to prove effective, there are surgical options available to you.

Surgical Treatment for Spinal Compression Fractures

The preferred surgical treatment for spinal compression fractures is either kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty. These minimally invasive procedures are very advanced compared to past spinal procedures that required more invasive surgery. Both procedures use only small incisions and acrylic bone cement that hardens quickly to stabilize the spinal bone fragments. Most patients go home the same day as their surgery, or the day after if further observation is necessary.

The two most successful surgical treatment types for spinal compression fractures are:

  • Kyphoplasty: Patients undergoing this minimally invasive surgery will have a thin tube called a catheter inserted in the back into the damaged vertebrae by their orthopedic surgeon. This catheter is guided into the vertebra, and an attached balloon at the end of the tube inflates to create a cavity in which bone cement is injected. Finally, the balloon is deflated and removed with the catheter, and the cement mixture hardens in about 10 minutes.
  • Vertebroplasty: During this procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will insert a needle into the damaged vertebrae with X-ray guidance to ensure it is done accurately. Bone cement mixture is injected into the fractured vertebrae, which hardens in about 10 minutes. Vertebroplasty is effective at relieving pain and stabilizing spinal compression fractures.

Seek Medical Care from Comprehensive Spine Institute for Spinal Compression Fractures

You don’t have to live with unexplained back pain. If you are a postmenopausal woman, you may not even realize you have osteoporosis until sustaining a fracture, so it is best to have an evaluation from an orthopedic physician to treat the fracture itself and the underlying osteoporosis. Treatment for osteoporosis involves any combination of the following: calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, prescribed exercise, and hormone replacement therapy.

There are significant health and deformity risks related to sustaining multiple vertebral fractures. Because of this, it’s very important to get an accurate diagnosis from an orthopedic physician, who will help customize your treatment plan and help you avoid future fractures.

To make an appointment with Comprehensive Spine Institute, please call (727) 300-2537 today.