FAQ’s on Vertebral Compression Fracture Treatment in Las Vegas

Vertebrae are the irregular bones that make up the spinal column. A vertebral compression fracture (VCF) occurs most often in the thoracic (mid-back) spine. This condition occurs most often among older persons, and it can lead to severe pain and lost spinal mobility.

Are VCFs common?

According to statistics, approximately 1.5 million older people suffer a VCF each year in the U.S. Of these persons, one-fourth are postmenopausal women, and by the age of 80 years, around 40% of women have one or more VCFs. Studies show that VCF occurrence is around 11 per 1,000 women and 6 per 1,000 men. Additionally, Asian and Caucasian women are more likely to sustain a VCF.

What are the risk factors for vertebral compression fracture?

Certain people are more at risk for vertebral compression fracture than others. Modifiable risk factors include alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and estrogen deficiency. Major risk factors that are not modifiable include:

  • Female gender
  • Being Asian or Caucasian
  • Susceptibility to falls
  • Advancing age
  • History of VCF in a first-degree relative

What are the symptoms related to a VCF?

VCF can lead to severe back pain, functional limitations, and significant disability. A person with this type of fracture has constant back pain, which worsens with walking or standing. In addition, a vertebral compression fracture can cause kyphosis of the spine (humpback), loss of height, spinal deformity, and decreased lung function.

What can cause a vertebral compression fracture?

A VCF occurs when one or more of the vertebrae (spinal bones) collapse from loss of bone density. A fracture can occur anywhere along the spine, but they are most common in the thoracic (mid-back) region. Osteoporosis is the most common cause of VCF, but it can occur due to a sports injury, hard fall, car accident, or spine tumor.

Do vertebral compression fractures cause any complications?

The complications related to a VCF include:

  • Neurological deficits – When a compressed vertebra bone presses on a spinal cord or nerves, it results in weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain of any affected body part.
  • Segmental instability – VCFs cause bony instability, especially when the vertebral body collapses more than 50%. Impaired movement and pain results when one section of the vertebra deteriorates.
  • Spinal deformities – If one or more vertebrae collapses, this can lead to kyphosis (humpback) of the spine. A collapsed vertebra results in pain of internal organs, breathing problems, and makes the spine appear rounded.

How can the doctor treat a vertebral compression fracture?

The treatment of a VCF depends on the age of the patient, the patient’s health, and the amount of time expired since the fracture occurred. Options include:

  • Bedrest and comfort measures – This involves resting in bed and use of heat or cold packs to the painful region. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will help with the pain, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. The doctor may recommend a back brace to give the spine support and prevent motion while the fracture heals.

 

  • Preventive measures – The doctor may prescribe a bone-strengthening agent, such as Actonel, Fosamax, or Boniva. These drugs restore bone loss, as well as stabilize the fractured bone.

 

  • Medications – To alleviate the discomfort associated with VCF, the doctor may prescribe an analgesic for short-term use.

 

  • Bracing – There are a couple different kinds of braces available to relieve the pain from compression fractures. One is called a Jewett brace, which offers three points of compression. A TLSO brace goes all the way around the spine and is considerably more bulky. Both are usually effective at relieving pain from vertebral compression fractures.

 

  • Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty – Bone height is restored to correct a vertebral compression fracture. The doctor performs these procedures using x-ray guidance. Once the needle is inserted into the collapsed bone, the bone can be restored to normal height using a balloon, and cement will be injected to fill the fracture. Clinical studies show that these procedures have a 90% efficacy rate.

Resources

Barr JD, Barr MS, Lemley TJ, & McCann RM (2000). Percutaneous vertebroplasty for pain relief and spinal stabilization. Spine, 25(8):923–8.

Huang MH, Barrett-Connor E, Greendale GA, Kado DM (2006). Hyperkyphotic posture and risk of future osteoporotic fractures: the Rancho Bernardo study. J Bone Miner Research, 21(3):419–23.

Wardlaw D, Cummings SR, Van Meirhaeghe J, et al. (2009). Efficacy and safety of balloon kyphoplasty compared with non-surgical care for vertebral compression fracture (FREE): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet, 373(9668):1016-24.