Compression Fractures

Compression fractures occur when forces applied to the spine are greater than its structural strength. When the front part of the spine called the vertebral body (it bears 70-90% of the weight of the spine), collapses it results in a compression fracture. 700,000 to 1,000,000 compression fractures occur in the United States every year. Fractures occur in different patterns.

  • Wedge fracture occurs when front of the vertebral body collapses leaving the back of the vertebral body unchanged. This process results in a wedge-shaped vertebra and can cause a Dowager’s Hump. Wedge fractures are a common type of compression fracture.
  • Crush fracture. If the entire vertebral body collapses, rather than just the front of the vertebra, it is called a crush fracture
  • Burst fracture. This type of fracture involves an explosion of the vertebral body with bone fragments shooting out to the sides.

How is Compression Fracturing caused?

Osteoporosis is the most common cause of compression fractures, however can be caused by cancer / physical injury such as a hard fall. Compression fractures usually occur in the elderly but can also be caused by a trauma in young people.

Side effects of Compression Fracture

Vertebral fractures are usually followed by acute back pain and may lead to chronic pain, possible deformity ( Dowager’s Hump), loss of height or loss of muscle anaerobic conditioning due to lack of activity. Fractures can lead to bed sores, blood clots and pneumonia if the decrease in physical activity is severe enough. The problem is that the compression fractures are not always recognized or accurately diagnosed. Often, the patient’s pain is just thought of as a general back pain, such as a muscle strain or other soft tissue injury, or as a common part of aging.

How is Compression Fracturing treated?

Most compression fractures heal on their own over 3 to 6 months. Occasionally the fractures continue to break down or catastrophically collapse, causing spine deformity, pinched nerves, chronic pain and very rarely paralysis. Avoid strenuous activity, or lifting more than 5 pounds. Wearing a back brace may reduce the risk of worsening the compression fracture.

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive injection procedure done in the office under sedation to reduce or stop the pain caused by a spinal fracture, stabilize the bone with plexiglass, and to restore some or all of the lost vertebral body height due to the compression fracture. The plexiglass typically takes about 60 minutes to fully harden. The injection normally hardens within an hour and most patients report a significant reduction of pain within a week or two.

What is the Kyphoplasty procedure like?

After the patient is sedated, needles are placed into the fractured vertebral body. A device creates channels in the fractured vertebral body to control the flow of the plexiglass. The plexiglass is then mixed and injected in the void within the fractured bone. The procedure normally takes about 30 minutes to one hour per vertebra involved. When the procedure is over the patient will likely only require a small bandage to protect the incision until it heals.

What is the Kyphoplasty procedure like?

The patient is normally sedated during the procedure. Pain reduction generally begins within 10 days of the procedure as the patient’s body adjusts.

How do I find out if I am a candidate?

There are several factors in determining if you are a candidate. Having an appropriate recent compression fracture that responds to kyphoplasty is the determining factor. Patients who are on blood thinning medications will require special consideration. Consult Arch Advanced Pain Management to see if this treatment is an option for you.