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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Patient Information: Lumbar Compression Fracture (Broken Low Back Vertebra) - Part I

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                                                Lumbar Compression Fracture
                                (Broken Vertebra in the Low-Back)



                 What is a Lumbar Compression Fracture?

A Vertebral Compression Fracture (VCF) is a collapse of a vertebra in the spine. The body of the vertebra which is the front section of the vertebra, collapses. Since the collapse of the vertebra is in the front of the vertebra, the spine often begins to curve forward.

 


This Image is a Color MRI scan of the low back. The front of the low back is to the left. The Vertebrae are shown in orange, separated by the Discs in green. A Fractured Vertebra is shown in red. Notice how the top of the Vertebra has collapsed.




                                                                                  
Here is the Interactive Version of a Color MRI of a Compression Fracture




Why do patients get a Compression Fracture?


VCF’s are caused by too much pressure on the front of the vertebrae, or weakness of the vertebra. This can happen when the spine is bent forward (flexed) or too much weight is placed on the spine. This often causes the vertebral body to collapse in a wedge shape (smaller in front than back).


Less common is a burst fracture, where the vertebrae breaks off into pieces, some of which could cause compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves.


While osteoporosis related VCF’s are the most common, they can also occur due to trauma or bone cancer.


 

Here are some of the common causes of Vertebral Compression Fractures:
 
1. Accidents: 
            - Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Sports Accidents
                                                                                                2. Osteoporosis or Spine Cancer related: 
                                  -  A strong cough or sneeze
                                   -  Sudden Forward Bending
                                                  -  Lifting a heavier weight than usual
- Fall 


How common are Vertebral Compression Fractures?

 It is estimated that 700,000 VCF’s occur each year in the U.S.. Studies have shown that up to 15% of women and 5-9% of men will have a VCF in their life time. 40% of women over the age of 80 will have a VCF. After having a VCF, the risk of having another one is 20% in the first year in women after menopause.


  How long do Vertebral Compression Fractures take to heal?


This depends on the reason for the fracture. Fractures related to trauma and osteoporosis tend to heal within 8 weeks. Fractures related to cancer may not heal completely.
 

What are the common symptoms from a Vertebral Compression Fracture?

VCF’s may not cause symptoms. Here are some common symptoms for the ones which do:
 
              a.     Sudden spine pain in the low back
                 b.     Pain in the spine worsened when bending down
                  c.      Worsened pain with standing, sitting or walking, improved when lying down.
   d.     Muscle spasms on the sides of the spine
         e.     Developing a “hump” in the back over time
f. Loss of body height over time
g.     Pain spreading up and down the spine
                   h.     Pain, numbness and weakness in the legs (burst fractures) from Nerve Compression
 
 
 




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