A lumbar spine fracture is known to frequently occur than fractures on the thoracic spine due to the moveable nature of the lumbar vertebrae. Since the vertebrae surround and protect the spinal cord, any form of damage can also damage the spinal cord. Any fracture on the lumbar spine usually at the lower end of the back can result to serious long-term consequences.
What are the causes?
Most cases of lumbar spine fractures are due to trauma such as vehicular accidents, falls, gunshot wounds and other types of accidents. In most circumstances, individuals below 30 are affected.
It is important to note that compression fractures can also occur due to weakened density of bone in the lumbar spine. This type of fracture is quite common among elderly women.
Types of lumbar spine fractures
Lumbar spine fractures are categorized in various groupings.
- Flexion fractures usually include compression-type damage in which the vertebra breakdowns at the anterior part only.
- Axial burst fractures involve the collapse of the vertebra at both front and back.
- Extension fractures occur once the vertebra pulls apart such as in accidents in which the pelvis is stabilized but the upper body moves in a forward manner violently.
- Rotation fractures occur once the body bends sideways violently or when the vertebrae are displaced where one moves away from the one next to it.
Lumbar spine fractures can cause moderate to intense pain that becomes worse during movement. Numbness, weakness and tingling in the affected area occur if the spinal cord is damaged.
Bladder and bowel control might also be lost if there is damage to the spinal cord. Most cases of individuals with lumbar spine fractures end up with lasting consequences or side effects.
Individuals who endured violent injuries to the lumbar spine should not be moved without immobilizing the spine, unless in a dangerous scenario such as a burning building.
When it comes to stable injuries such as those in which the damaged vertebrae are not likely to move, they often heal as long as stabilized for 6-12 weeks under a cast or brace.
Steroid medications are usually given to minimize the inflammation and swelling if compression of the spinal cord is present in order to preserve as much function as possible.
Always bear in mind that surgery might be required for unstable fractures in order to prevent damage to the spinal cord. The unstable pieces of the vertebra are taken out under the process known as laminectomy or decompression. Rods, screws and other devices are placed to help stabilize the spine.
What are the possible complications?
Lumbar spine fractures can lead to paralysis if the spinal cord endured severe damage. Other possible complications include the development of blood clots in the legs due to immobility that has the tendency to break off and travel all the way to the lungs or other parts of the body.
These blood clots can clog up the flow of blood and trigger pulmonary embolism or stroke that can be deadly. Pressure sores and pneumonia can also develop due to immobility. In addition, bleeding and infection can also occur after surgery of the spine and the vertebra might not properly heal.