Fractures of the vertebral column can vary widely in severity. Some fractures are severe injuries resulting from high energy trauma that require emergency treatment. Other fractures may be the result of a lesser impact event, such as a minor fall in an older person whose bones are weakened by osteoporosis. Most spinal fractures occur in the thoracic spine (middle back) and lumbar spine (lower back) or where the two meet (thoracolumbar junction). Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture and whether the patient has other related injuries.
High-energy trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls from a great height, sports trauma, violent acts are the leading cause for thoracic and lumbar spine fractures. Often, these patients have additional serious injuries that require prompt treatment. Spinal cord and/or spinal nerves can also be injured.
Fractures of the condyles (C0) Fractures of the atlas (C1) Traumatic occipitocervical dislocation Acquired occipitocervical instability Fractures of the axis (C2) Fractures of the odontoid proces of the axis (C2) Hangman fractures Fractures of the vertebral arches of C2 Fractures of the cervical vertebral bodies C3-C7 Clay-shoveler fracture Cervical Facet Dislocations & Fractures Chance Fracture (flexion-distraction injury) Osteoporotic Vertebral Compression Fracture Traumatic spondylolisthesis
Bone failure may also cause spinal fractures. For example, people with osteoporosis, tumours, or other underlying diseases that weaken bones can have fractured vertebrae even in low-energy events - such as reaching out, twisting or sneezing. These fractures can go unnoticed for some time, with no symptoms or discomfort, until a bone breaks again.
There are several types of spinal fractures. We classify fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine based on the specific pattern of the fracture and whether there is a spinal cord injury. The proper classification of the fracture pattern helps determine the right treatment.