What Are Spinal Fractures and Dislocations?

Spinal fractures and dislocations can pinch, compress and even tear the spinal cord. Treatment depends on the type of fracture sustained and the degree of instability.

Fractures: A bone breaks when more pressure is put on a bone than it can stand. The most common type of spine fracture is a vertebral body compression fracture. Sudden downward force shatters and collapses the body of the vertebrae. Those affected by osteoporosis, tumors and certain types of cancer are particularly prone to vertebral compression fractures.

Dislocations: When the ligaments and/or discs connecting two vertebrae together are stretched or torn, the bones may become misaligned. This can be caused, for example, by the rapid forward motion of the upper body against a seat belt pulling apart the vertebra and stretching the ligaments.

Fracture-dislocations: When bone is broken and the ligaments are torn, a fracture-dislocation is sustained. These fractures are usually unstable and are generally surgically repaired.


Instrumentation & Fusion

These surgical procedures are used to treat unstable fractures. Fusion is the joining of two vertebrae with a bone graft held together with hardware such as plates, rods, hooks, pedicle screws or cages. The goal of the bone graft is to join the vertebrae above and below to form one solid piece of bone.

Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty

These minimally invasive procedures are performed to treat compression fractures commonly caused by osteoporosis and spinal tumors. In vertebroplasty, bone cement is injected through a hollow needle into the fractured vertebral body. In kyphoplasty, a balloon is first inserted and inflated to expand the compressed vertebrae before filling the space with bone cement.