Understanding Wedge Compression Fractures & How They Are Treated

If you are an older woman who has osteoporosis, you are not alone. Around 200 million women across the globe suffer from low bone mass as well. Unfortunately, there are some complications that can arise when you have the condition. One of these issues is the formation of compression fractures along the spine. Some of the breaks are wedge fractures. Keep reading to understand these fractures and how they may be treated.

Compression Wedge Fractures

The human spinal column is composed of 33 different vertebrae that cradle or protect the spinal cord. Each vertebra has a solid piece of bone called the vertebral body. This chunk of bone helps to retain pressure and stress so the body can move with ease. Between each vertebral bodies sits a spongy disc. These discs prevent the vertebrae from pressing or scraping one another. 

Unfortunately, the vertebrae lose some of their mass, like the other bones in the body, when you have osteoporosis. While the spinal column may be able to keep you moving and hold up the weight of your body, it cannot retain a great deal of external stress. If stress is forced on the back or spine, then the thin bones can break. The breaks are called compression fractures.

Some compression fractures are simple cracks in the vertebra. However, other types of damage are more complex. This is true of wedge fractures. Wedge fractures occur when the front portion of the vertebral body collapses. This creates a wedge in the bone, and the vertebra can fall forward. 

Brace Treatments

Wedge compression fractures are diagnosed with the help of imaging. X-rays, CAT scans, and MRI imaging may all be instrumental in discovering the wedge fracture. If the fracture is your first one, then you may also be asked to go through a bone mineral density test if one has not been completed recently. This is necessary to make sure that serious fractures and spinal disc herniation is not something that you should be concerned about. 

Once the testing is completed, your pain levels will be taken into consideration. If the wedge fracture is considered moderate and if you are in pain, then you will be asked to wear a back brace for some time. These braces may be required for several months. Corsets and rigid braces are ideal for low and upper back fractures, and collars are suggested for neck fractures. 

Braces reduce your pain by keeping the spinal column immobile. This reduces nerve irritation and also swelling that can place a good deal of pressure on the spinal column. The brace also allows the fracture area to heal.

Surgical Intervention

In the case of a serious or large wedge compression fracture, surgical intervention may be required. Stabilization surgeries are common and involve the placement of cement along the fracture area. The cement glues the wedge back into place. This keeps the wedge from moving and placing pressure on the spinal column, and it also strengthens the vertebra so it can retain normal levels of stress.

Stabilization surgeries are completed under general anesthesia. Some professionals will use a catheter to guide the cement into place. Other physicians will complete a procedure called balloon kyphoplasty. This procedure uses a balloon to create an area where surgical cement can be secured. Surgeries that involve balloons are less invasive than other procedures, so they are often ideal for most wedge fracture cases.

Fusion surgeries as well as the need for pins, plates, and screws may be required as well. However, these more advanced and risky surgeries are usually saved for advanced cases or when patients feel severe levels of pain. Less invasive treatments should be tried first. To learn more, contact clinics such as Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.