Spine Fracture Stabilization
Suffering a spinal fracture is an incredibly painful experience requiring treatment as soon as possible. Spinal surgery is not always necessary though, especially if a patient seeks treatment early and follows their doctor’s regimen carefully. Fracture stabilization is the medical term used to describe the various processes by which the spine can be repaired following a fracture. There are several methods of fracture stabilization, including surgical, non-surgical, and minimally invasive procedures, such as vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty, and ultimately spinal fusion surgery.
In some cases, patients may improve with such simple non-surgical treatments as the use of pain medications supplements, physical therapy, and so-called external spinal fracture bracing – when the spine is supported and protected through the use of wearable braces.
Vertebroplasty is a nonsurgical spinal repair technique that involves stabilizing compression fractures by injecting bone cement into the patient’s vertebrae at the point of the fractures or cracks.
As the cement hardens, the spine receives more support, thus reducing pain associated with cracked vertebrae – especially those associated with osteoporosis.
Kyphoplasty also involves injecting bone cement into any spine fractures, but first, an inflatable balloon-type device is placed near the site in order to create room for the bone cement.
This added step helps restore some of the vertebrae’s original height. The kyphoplasty technique can help both osteoporosis patients and those who have suffered damaged vertebrae due to the effects of cancer.
For both non-surgical spine stabilization techniques, doctors use x-rays to monitor the injection process. The procedures are performed in an outpatient setting and typically take about an hour. Recovery is usually mild, requiring painkillers for pain at the injection site that may last a few days. You may also be prescribed minerals and supplements to help strengthen your spine and prevent additional damage in the future.
Surgical Fracture Stabilization
For patients who are not candidates for non-surgical spinal repair or have not had their pain subside following non-surgical treatments, spinal fusion surgery is the next step.
Spinal fusion surgery involves fusing the troublesome or fractured vertebrae together so that movement no longer occurs between them and friction and nerve pain is reduced.
Sometimes, the inter-vertebral cushioning disk is removed to further reduce nerve pain, along with any pointed “bone spur” growths caused by osteoporosis, inflammation or arthritis.
There are several different surgical spinal fusion techniques, including placing screws or rods, bone grafts, metal implants, or plastic support cages to hold the bones in the correct position for fusion.
Spinal surgery is always a major surgery, typically lasting several hours, though there are minimally invasive surgical techniques that require shorter hospital stays than traditional spinal fusion surgery.
Choosing a Treatment
Your spinal surgeon will take a detailed history from you and review your imaging results and medical records, along with the specific complications from which you are suffering, in order to determine whether you are a candidate for non-surgical treatment, or whether your symptoms require spinal surgery.
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