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What Happens When You Fracture Your Spine?

Osteoporosis is the top reason people suffer a spine fracture. Trauma is the second most common cause. And the type of high-impact injury that delivers enough force to break your back or neck can easily damage your spinal nerves.

For these reasons, a spine fracture requires immediate care from George Kakoulides, MD, a skilled neurosurgeon who has the expertise to quickly assess your injuries and provide the full range of treatments needed to heal your spine so you regain optimal function.

Immediate evaluation of a spine fracture

As soon as the paramedics arrive, or you reach our clinic or the emergency room, your breathing and vital signs are assessed, and you’re placed in a neck or back brace to stabilize your spine until diagnostic testing is done.

You’ll need X-rays so we can get a good view of the vertebrae and identify the fractures. In some cases, you may also need to have a CT scan, which provides a more in-depth view of your spine.

An MRI is also performed because it gives us detailed images of your soft tissues. Your MRI results reveal damage to your spinal nerves, intervertebral discs, ligaments, and muscles.

We may also order specialized imaging tests. For example, flexion and extension X-rays detect abnormal spine movement. Your technician may inject a dye during your CT scan or MRI that highlights certain structures and makes it easier to see damage to your spinal cord.

Other problems that may be treated following a spine fracture

During your examination, we quickly determine if you need treatment for serious problems that frequently occur such as:

The trauma associated with a spine fracture, either the accident that caused the fracture or pieces of broken bones resulting from the fracture, often leads to other problems, such as traumatic brain injuries. We perform a thorough medical and neurological exam to identify all the problems that require treatment.

Treatment for your spine fracture

The treatment you receive depends on the type and severity of your fracture. However, your treatment always begins with pain management and stabilization of your back to prevent additional injuries.

Spine fractures typically require bracing and/or surgery:

Spine bracing

A brace immobilizes your spine while maintaining normal alignment. This gives your spine time to heal properly and also helps to relieve your pain by limiting movement.

Your brace is designed to fit the part of your spine where the fracture occurred. You may only need a rigid collar for a neck fracture or a full back brace for your middle and lower back.

Surgery

Surgery is often needed when your vertebrae are out of alignment, your spine is unstable, or the nerves are compressed.

Depending on the severity of your fracture, we may implant instruments such as rods, plates, and screws to stabilize your spine.

Another procedure, called a spinal fusion, uses bone graft material to promote bone growth between two or more adjoining vertebrae. As a result, they form one strong bone that restores strength and stability.

If the fracture resulted in pinched nerves, we perform a surgical technique to release the nerves and create more space. Decompression procedures involve removing small pieces of bone and soft tissues such as damaged discs.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive procedures that are performed to repair a vertebral compression fracture. Compression fractures occur when osteoporosis, an infection, or a spinal tumor weakens the bone to the point where it collapses.

During vertebroplasty, we insert a hollow needle into the collapsed disc and inject bone cement, which hardens and restores the bone’s integrity.

If we perform a kyphoplasty, we first insert a balloon and inflate it to expand the compressed vertebra and push it back to its normal height. Then we inject bone cement to fill the space.

We have three offices in West Islip, Huntington, and Smithtown, New York. When you suffer a spine fracture, immediately call George Kakoulides, MD, for compassionate care and exceptional treatment. 

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