Vertebral Compression Fractures

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Vertebral Compression Fractures is commonly referred to as an achy back. One of the more common causes of back pain is a vertebral compression fracture where one or more of the vertebrae in the spine have either broken or collapsed. While the majority of these injuries remarkably cause no significant pain they can result in limited movement and long term nagging pain. Vertebroplasty

The most common cause of compression fractures is osteoporosis. This condition is caused when bones soften. A compression fracture of this sort may cause sudden pain or it may cause nagging, long-term pain felt after attempting minor movements. Vertebral compression fractures do not present in one consistent manner. They can cause no pain or they can cause severe discomfort.

These cracked vertebrae are most common in the upper back, down to the lower back. While pain normally resolves within a month, severe pain or pain that lasts longer than four weeks will require medical attention. In this circumstance a physician will likely conduct an exam and possibly diagnostic imaging. Key indicators are kyphosis – or having a humpback – and loss of height with age. An x-ray can see if vertebrae are compressed or broken, though a bone scan for osteoporosis may also be required.

Conservative care may include medications, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. A calcium rich diet is recommended.  Some surgical procedures for more severe cases may be offered.

Two minimally invasive, surgical procedures include a percutaneous vertebroplasty and a kyphoplasty.  A vertebroplasty is a procedure where cement is pushed into the fractured bone to provide more support and allow for healing. A kyphoplasty is when a small balloon is injected into the injured vertebrae and slowly inflated to the original size.

References

  1. Vertebral Compression Fractures – PainDoctor.com
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  3. Nidus Information Services. (2011). Compression fractures of the back. Patient Handouts. MD Consult Web site, Core Collection. Retrieved from http://www.mdconsult.com.ezproxy1.library.arizona.edu/das/patient/body/262696692-3/1175420669/10041/31768.html.
  4. Sheon, R.P.; Rosen, H.N. (2011). Clinical manifestations and treatment of osteoporotic thoracolumbar vertebral compression fractures. In: UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA.
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  6. Kado, D.M. (2010). Overview of hyperkyphosis in older persons. In: UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA.
  7. Nidus Information Services. (2011). Compression fractures of the back. Patient Handouts. MD Consult Web site, Core Collection. Retrieved from http://www.mdconsult.com.ezproxy1.library.arizona.edu/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-2261-9..50040-9–cesec8&isbn=978-1-4160-2261-9&sid=1175420675&uniqId=262696692-3#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-2261-9..50040-9–cesec10.
  8. Evans, A.J.; et al. (2009). Prospective assessment of pain and functional status after vertebroplasty for treatment of vertebral compression fractures. J NeuroIntervent Surg. Vol 1, 66-70.