The Basics of Vertebral Compression Fractures

Vertebral Compression Fracture is a condition that most often occurs in elderly women with Osteoporosis. In Osteoporosis, the bone is weakened from a lack of calcium and vitamin D in the system and this causes the bone to become porous. When the bone becomes porous it becomes more fragile and then is more susceptible to breakage, even under normal, everyday use.

What are the symptoms of a Vertebral Compression Fracture?

If the fracture occurs in an elderly woman with Osteoporosis it may not occur at once but rather gradually over time as the bfractured-vertebralone weakens. In this case there is often no felt pain or discomfort with the fracture but there still may be signs of a fracture such as a stooped posture or the appearance of a humped back (kyphotic deformation).

If the fracture occurs suddenly from injury it can be extremely painful, especially if the fracture causes the nerves to be impinged (pinched). In this case the patient may experience pain in their arms and legs, hands and feet, as well as in their back (Compression fracture in the middle of a chronic instrumented fusion that developed into pseudarthrosis after balloon kyphoplasty 2014).

How is Vertebral Compression Fracture diagnosed?

Visible symptoms such as pain, and a recent injury, or a stooped appearance in an elderly person may be indicative of a Vertebral Compression Fracture; however the only way to positively identify fractured vertebrae is by x-ray or MRI.

How do you treat Vertebral Compression Fracture?

If a mild fracture is incurred due to injury, often immobilization and rest will allow the fracture to heal naturally. If the fracture is due to osteoporosis surgery may be necessary.  Often anti-inflammatory medications can be used to reduce swelling and opioid analgesics can be used to relieve pain. In patients with osteoporosis it may be necessary for them to take supplements for calcium and vitamin D to help strengthen and repair the bone. Back braces may also be used to help correct posture to minimize risk of further fractures ([Unilateral multiple channels approach in percutaneous vertebroplasty for osteoporotic vertebral fractures] 2014)..

What are expectations when a patient gets treatment?

Most people can expect successful treatment of a Vertebral Compression Fracture; however elderly patients with osteoporosis may experience multiple fractures, and may continue to experience fractures until the bone strengthens by use of supplement (Tapentadol, oxycodone or placebo for acute pain of vertebral compression fractures: a randomized Phase IIIb study 2014)..

How is the procedure/treatment performed?

kyphoplastySurgical procedure for fractured vertebrae can include the use of a surgical adhesive. In this procedure a small balloon is inserted into the fractured vertebra and gently inflated to return the vertebra to its original height. Then the surgeon injects a fast curing surgical adhesive into the vertebra, when this adhesive hardens the vertebra will be stable again.

Other surgical procedures require metal rods and screws to be used to stabilize a fractured vertebra to allow it to heal in the correct position (Comparative analysis of vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty for osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures. 2014).

What risk or side effects are there?

In elderly patients with osteoporosis the bone may not be strong enough to support metal screws and rods and the use of such can damage the corresponding vertebra that are being used to support the fractured one (Osteoporotic lumbar compression fracture in patient with ankylosing spondylitis treated with kyphoplasty 2014)..

How successful are they the relief of pain for the condition?

Patients with mild to moderate fractures caused by injury usually experience a high success rate of healing; however older women with osteoporosis may not heal or may not heal properly. Discuss with your physician what treatment options are best for you.