What Is a Thoracolumbar Spine Fracture? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

 Fracturing your spine is a very serious injury and one that will need close attention.  A thoracolumbar spine fracture simply means that there is a broken bone in the middle or lower part of the spine.  These types of high energy fractures are more common in men, while the low energy fractures are more common in seniors due to the weakening of the bones.  They are also typically caused by accidents like motor vehicle collisions, sports trauma, violence, or falling from a high up distance. However, individuals living with osteoporosis can also experience these types of fractures just by participating in daily, routine activities. 

The most common symptom of a back fracture is moderate to severe pain that is made worse by movement. In addition, numbness, tingling, weakness, or decreased bowel and bladder function can be present.  If the spine is fractured in a high speed accident or trauma situation, the patient may have experienced other life-threatening injuries and could have lost consciousness, so if there is a trauma such as car crash or sports accident, special attention must be made to not move the patient’s head or back until it’s been confirmed there is no back fracture present. 

In the case of a trauma situation, medical personnel will immobilize the patient with a backboard and neck brace.  Once a physician is present, there will be a head to toe exam completed and other imaging or neurological tests may be performed to evaluate the extent of the injury.   Depending on the type and extent of the fracture, many times, surgery will be needed to help stabilize fractures and get the patient back to normal mobility and flexibility.  In cases where surgery is not required, there will likely be physical therapy and light exercise.  The goal of this is to help reduce pain, help regain mobility and flexibility, and allow for progressive healing. 

Contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com.

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