Spinal fractures are quite common but often vary widely in severity. An estimated 9 million spinal fractures occur world-wide each year. While some of these fractures are very harsh injuries that need emergency treatments, other fractures can be the result of weakening of bones due to conditions like osteoporosis. Dislocation of spinal vertebra can cause bone fragments to pinch & deteriorate the spinal cord or spinal nerves. According to reports, spinal fractures are mostly found to occur 30 percent from falls, 40 percent from car accidents, 15 percent from gunshots, 5 percent from medical conditions & 10 percent from sports. Spinal injuries can range from relatively moderate ligament & muscle strains to dislocations of vertebrae & disabling spinal cord damage.
What are Spinal Fractures?
Spinal fractures are deformities which occur when bones of spinal vertebrae collapse. This can lead to severe pain, poor posture, loss of height & a variety of other symptoms. Treatment of spinal fractures depends upon the type of injury & degree of spinal instability. According to health reports, 70 percent of patients with spinal fractures are aged between 20 – 30 years. Men are four times more likely to have spinal fractures than women.
When extrinsic force is applied to spine, such as from a fall, forces may surpass the ability of bone within the spinal column to bear & support the load. This may cause vertebral column to crush, resulting in serious fractures. When complete vertebral column breaks down, it results in a burst fracture. If compression is less, patients will experience only minimal deformity & mild pain. When spinal deformity is severe, it may adversely affect nerve roots or spinal cord. Osteoporosis is one of the most common risk factors for spinal fractures as it causes back bones to weaken. Fractures of spine may also result from high-energy trauma in the following events.
- Sports accident
- Car or motorcycle crash
- Violent acts such as gunshot wounds
- Fall from height s
Spinal fractures may be caused by insufficiency of bone. People with tumors, osteoporosis or other underlying health conditions that weaken bone can fracture spinal vertebrae even during low-impact activities such as twisting or reaching. These spinal fractures may develop unnoticed over a long period of time, with no discomfort or symptoms until bones break.
Signs & symptoms of spinal fractures vary depending upon the location & severity of injury. Most common signs & symptoms of spinal fractures are listed below.
- Neck or back pain
- Muscle spasm
- Bowel and/or bladder changes
Paralysis is loss of motion in legs or arms of patients which may indicate a spinal cord injury or fracture.
Following list elaborates the main types of spinal fractures.
- Compression Fracture – This type of fracture is most commonly observed in patients with osteoporosis or patients whose bones have been depleted by other diseases like bone cancer. Spinal vertebrae can devour so much pressure but if a sudden force is applied, spine bones may not be able to bear the stress & rupture.
- Burst Fracture – Burst fractures are caused by serious trauma such as car accidents. They mostly occur when vertebrae are compressed by extreme forces. Unlike compression fractures, burst fractures cause rupturing of vertebrae in multiple places. When vertebra is entirely crushed, bony fragments can advance & cause spinal cord injury as well. Burst fractures are more severe in nature as compared to compression fractures.
- Flexion-Distraction Fractures – When patients have car accidents where the body is pushed in forward direction, they may develop a flexion-distraction fracture. Spine is designed to flex forward, but sudden forward motion that places high stress on spine may rupture in a vertebra or vertebrae. Flexion-distraction fractures mostly happen in the posterior & middle column of spine.
- Fracture-Dislocation – When patients have any of the mentioned fractures & when vertebrae move notably (dislocation), they may develop a fracture-dislocation. Usually, these types of fractures make patient’s spine very unstable.
Patients with spinal fractures that have been caused by trauma require emergency treatments. It may be hard for doctors to assess extent of patient’s injuries on first evaluation. Spine surgeons will perform a thorough physical evaluation of patients in the hospital emergency room.
- Physical Examination – Spine surgeons will conduct a complete physical evaluation, beginning with a head-to-toe assessment of the patient. It may include an inspection of chest, head, abdomen, limbs, pelvis & spine.
- Neurological Evaluation – Spine surgeons will also check the neurological status of patients. This includes testing patient’s ability to feel, move & sense the position of limbs. In addition to these, surgeons will test the patient’s reflexes for determining whether there has been an injury to spinal nerves or spinal cord.
- Imaging Tests – Once physical examination is done, a radiologic assessment is required. Depending upon the extent of spinal injuries, certain imaging tests may include x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans & magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of targeted areas.
Spine surgeons may ask the patients to follow the given guidelines prior to undergoing treatment for spinal fractures.
- Health Check-Up – Depending upon the age & general medical fitness of patients, spine surgeons may ask them to undergo a general healthcare checkup by the family doctor.
- Smoking – Patients will be asked to quit smoking & exercise regularly for faster recovery.
- Medications – Certain medications like aspirin & non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may interfere with or affect outcomes of spinal fracture treatments. In case surgery is performed, it may lead to bleeding or anesthesia may lead to adverse effects. Spine surgeons may ask patients to stop taking these medications prior to undergoing spinal surgery.
- Donating Blood – Usually, donating blood is not required for most spine & low back surgeries. However, there is always risk of blood loss during any surgery. Surgeons may therefore ask patients to donate their own blood in case of future emergency.
- Advance Planning – Patients will be able to walk after surgery, but they may required to arrange for some help for a few weeks after returning home with activities like dressing, washing, laundry, cleaning & shopping. Surgeons will probably suggest them not to drive cars for a specific period of time following surgery. Patients may also need to consult respective spine surgeons before taking car trips.
Patients may ask the following questions to respective spine surgeons in order to understand the complete treatment procedure for spinal fractures.
- What is a spinal fracture?
- What are the possible causes of my symptoms?
- Do I have a spinal fracture?
- What types of tests are required for diagnosis?
- Do these tests need any special preparation?
- What do you suggest be the next steps in determining my diagnosis & treatment?
- What type of spinal fracture do I have?
- Am I a candidate for surgery?
- What are the risks & complications associated with surgery for spinal fractures?
- What treatment approach is best suitable for me?
- What are the goals of the suggested treatment plan?
- What is the long-term outlook for my present condition?
- Shall I head for a second opinion?
In addition to these questions, patients should not hesitate to ask any other doubts or queries that they have in mind.
Treatment of spinal fractures begins with pain management & stabilization to prevent further injury. Depending upon the type of spinal fracture & its stability, bracing or surgical treatments may be necessary.
- Braces – Braces are very beneficial for patients suffering from spinal fractures. Braces mainly do the following things.
- Maintain spinal alignment
- Immobilize spine during recovery
- Control pain by restricting spinal movement
Stable fractures may only need stabilization with a brace, such as a cervical-thoracic brace for upper back fractures, a rigid collar for cervical fractures or a thoracolumbar-sacral orthosis (TLSO) for lower back fractures. Generally, after 6 to 10 weeks, braces are discontinued. Dislocations or unstable neck fractures may require adhesion to realign spine into its accurate location. A halo ring & vest brace may sometimes be needed.
- Instrumentation & Spinal Fusion Surgery – These are surgical procedures to treat unstable spinal fractures. Spinal fusion is the process of joining two vertebrae with a bone graft held together with hardware such as rods, plates, hooks, cages or pedicle screws. Main aim of bone graft is to connect spinal vertebrae above & below in order to create one solid piece of bone. It may require a few months or longer period of time to create a solid fusion.
- Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty – These are minimally invasive procedures performed to rectify compression fractures normally caused by spinal tumors & osteoporosis. During the procedure of vertebroplasty, bone cement is injected through a hollow needle into vertebral section of a fractured spine. Whereas, in kyphoplasty a balloon is first inserted & bloated to expand the compressed vertebral column before padding the space with bone cement.
Many patients with osteoporosis are able to live fully without severe level of back pain if they rest properly & take pain medications as needed. It is not feasible to reverse bone damage from osteoporosis, but consuming suitable calcium supplements as prescribed by surgeons, not smoking & taking medications to strengthen bones can help protect against future breaks. Generally, spinal fractures need eight to ten weeks of time for complete recovery or even longer in some cases. Patients should obey instructions of spine surgeons for speedy recovery.
Complications associated with surgery for spinal fractures include the following.
- Pressure sores
- Blood Clots in Legs & Pelvis – Blood clots may develop during long periods of immobility or bed rest.
- Pulmonary Embolism – It is a blood clot that breaks free & travels to patient’s lungs.
Several other complications associated with all types of spinal surgeries are listed below.
- Spinal fluid leaks
- Instrument failure
Spine surgeons may ask patients to follow specific measures in order to avoid potential complications. These measures include the following.
- Early treatment
- Medications to protect against blood clots
- Appropriate surgical techniques
- Postoperative programs
Regardless of the treatment procedure employed, there will be a rehabilitation period after spinal fracture has healed. Main goals of rehabilitation include the following.
- Restoring mobility
- Reducing pain
- Increasing back strength
Spine surgeons may suggest physical therapy to help patients achieve these goals. Most of the patients can live a normal life following treatment of spinal fractures. With help of a healthy lifestyle, patients will be able to smoothly perform most daily tasks.
Medical Tourism for Best Treatment of Spinal Fractures
Several medical tourism destinations across the world are also renowned for their abundant beauty & now are being associated for progress in the medical field. These countries are rapidly advancing towards becoming top-most destinations for international patients seeking healthcare solutions beyond their homeland. Home to various hospitals & clinics following international protocols, they ably provided touristic locations where patients can recuperate following surgery. Surgeons serving at the hospitals & clinics in these countries are supremely qualified & many of them have international experience as well. Cost-effective & quality spine surgeries for treating various types of spinal fractures attract a growing number of healthcare tourists. State-of-the-art medical technology which is available at these destinations is one of the major aspects of healthcare tourism industry. Apart from these, what makes them ideal medical tourism destinations is the peaceful environment, which undeniably helps international patients in the process of smoother recovery.
Affordable Treatments of Spinal Fractures with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure Medical Tourism is a globally reputed medical tourism facilitator. Associated with the best spine surgeons in countries like Turkey, Germany, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, & India, they aim to deliver the most beneficial outcomes to international patients for treatment of spinal fractures without long waiting periods. Travcure is connected to a wide healthcare network of internationally accredited clinics & hospitals & smoothly provides provisions to ensure that every patient from abroad gets the most advanced treatment for spinal fractures. In addition to this, Travcure also provides recuperation packages to international patients for renewing their mind & body following treatment for spinal fractures.
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