Treatment of spine compression fracture

Treatment for Vertebral compression fracture

Compression fractures are the most common type of fracture affecting the spine. A compression fracture of a spine bone (vertebra) causes the bone to collapse in height.Spine bones that are weakened from osteoporosis may become unable to support normal stress and pressure. As a result, something as simple as coughing, twisting, or lifting can cause a vertebra to fracture.

An injury to the spine, such as from a hard fall on the buttocks or blow to the head, can cause a spinal compression fracture. Compression fractures may also occur if cancer from other parts of the body spreads to the spine. Cancer weakens the spine bones and makes them prone to fractures.

Non surgical treatment

The majority of patients with compression fractures are treated without surgery. Most compression fractures heal within eight weeks with simple remedies of medicine, rest, and a special back brace.Most patients are given medication to control pain. Although medications can help ease pain, they are not designed to heal the fracture. With pain under control, patients find it easier to get up and move about, avoiding the problems that come from remaining immobile in bed.

Patients are usually prescribed a short period of rest. This gives the fracture a chance to heal and aids in pain control. In some cases, the doctor may have a patient stay in bed for up to one week. Most patients are fit with a special back brace, called an orthosis. This type of brace is molded to the patient’s body. It limits spine movement in general, though the brace is usually fashioned to keep patients from bending forward. This protects the fractured vertebral body so it can heal.

Minimally invasive treatment

In recent times two new procedures to treat compression fractures caused by osteoporosis. Both are considered minimally invasive. Minimally invasive means the incisions used are very small, and there is little disturbance of the muscles and bones where the procedure is done. These two procedures help the fracture heal without the problems associated with more involved surgeries. These new procedures are: Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty.


This procedure is most helpful for reducing pain. It also strengthens the fractured bone, enabling patients to rehabilitate faster. To perform vertebroplasty, doctors use a fluoroscope to guide a needle into the fractured vertebral body. A fluoroscope is a special X-ray television that allows the doctors to see your spine and the needle as it moves. Once the surgeon is sure the needle is in the right place, bone cement, called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), is injected through the needle into the fractured vertebra. A reaction in the cement causes it to harden within 15 minutes. This fixes the bone so that it does not collapse any further as it heals. More than 80 percent of patients get immediate pain relief with this procedure.


Kyphoplasty is another way for doctors to treat vertebral compression fractures. Like vertebroplasty, this procedure halts severe pain and strengthens the fractured bone. However, it also gives the advantage of improving some or all of the lost height in the vertebral body, helping prevent kyphosis.

Two long needles are inserted through the sides of the spinal column into the fractured vertebral body. These needles guide the specialists while drilling two holes into the vertebral body. The doctor uses a fluoroscope (mentioned above) to make sure the needles and drill holes are placed in the right spot. The doctor then slides a hollow tube with a deflated balloon on the end through each drill hole. Inflating the balloons restores the height of the vertebral body and corrects the kyphosis deformity. Before the procedure is complete, the surgeon injects bone cement into the hollow space formed by the balloon. This fixes the bone in its corrected size and position.

Open spine surgery

Open surgical treatment for spinal compression fractures due to osteoporosis is infrequently needed. (Open procedures require larger incisions to give the surgeon more room to operate.) In rare cases of severe trauma, however, open surgery is sometimes required. Open surgery is done if the spinal segment has loosened and bone fragments have damaged the spinal cord and spinal nerves.


Rehabilitation after traumatic vertebral fractures can be a slow process. In these cases, patients sometimes need to attend therapy sessions for two to three months and should expect full recovery to take up to one year.

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