Vertebral compression fracture (VCF) is a specific type of spinal fracture when the spinal bone is smashed and deformed due to injury forces.
Vertebral bone is composed of two types of bone tissue - compact and spongious. Compact bone comprises the outer shell of the vertebral bone. This bone is very robust and provides a shell for the inner portion, which is composed of spongious bone tissue. Spongous bone has a lot of space inside and looks like a sponge. These tiny spaces are filled with bone marrow and venous blood. Unlike other bones, vertebral bones are mostly composed of spongous bone. Therefore, they may suffer from a compression fracture. This fracture is unique because there are no broken parts. Rather, the vertebra is deformed and smashed. Typically, the front part of the bone is cracked and collapsed while the back portion is spared. This condition creates an abnormal angle in the spinal column, causing deformity, i.e., loss of normal shape. If the angle is too much and the fracture fails to heal, the load may lead to progressive collapse, increasing the deformity.
Usually, the vertebral bone is quite sturdy and cannot be fractured easily. Significant force is required to cause a vertebral compression fracture in healthy bone. However, there are several conditions that may weaken the bone. Osteoporosis is a condition frequently affecting older people, especially in women. This is a condition characterized by progressive loss of bone tissue. As a result, bones become weak and fragile. These patients may develop different fractures in their bodies, including vertebral compression fractures. Another common cause of VCF is cancer. Tumors growing inside of the vertebra usually erode it and cause weakening. Therefore, patients with osteoporosis or tumors may develop compression fractures with relatively minor trauma or no trauma at all.
The main symptom of the vertebral compression fracture is pain. Typically, patients develop the pain right after the moment of fracture. This pain is usually mechanical, i.e., it is worse with a physical load like standing or working. The pain may become chronic and persist several months after the fracture. In some instances, the initial pain is not very intensive, but with progressive collapse, it may become excruciating. Some patients may become wheelchair-bound or even bedridden.
Another symptom of vertebral compression fracture is kyphosis. Since the front part is collapsed more, the spine makes an angle at the site of fracture. This angle causes front bending of the spine, i.e., kyphosis. Kyphosis initially may not be visible; however, with progressive collapse, the deformity may significantly worsen.
Unlike other fracture types, compression fracture usually does not lead to spinal canal compromise and spinal cord compression. Therefore, the patients are usually neurologically intact.
Physical examination and imaging studies are the two main methods to diagnose vertebral compression fractures. The examination may reveal the exact site of the pain and the presence of deformity. Spine imaging like MRI, CT, or X-rays is invaluable for the diagnosis. These scans can nicely demonstrate the affected bone, degree of collapse, deformity, bone edema, spinal canal status, and many other details.
Usually, physical exam and imaging studies are sufficient, yet if the tumor is present, then additional investigations may be performed to find out the nature of the tumor.
The treatment depends on the duration of symptoms, degree of compression, and presence of additional injuries. In the vast majority of cases, initially, the patients are treated with pain medications and rest. In some cases, physicians may add external casts or orthosis to restrict the spine's motions temporarily.
If the pain persists for more than several weeks, surgical treatment should be performed. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are specific procedures for the treatment of vertebral compression fractures. They are commonly referred to as vertebral augmentation. These procedures can be performed under local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia. A needle is advanced into the fractured bone under X-ray control to establish access.
Both procedures include injection of specific, biocompatible cement material. During vertebroplasty, the cement is directly injected into the bone. Kyphoplasty or balloon kyphoplasty is slightly different from vertebroplasty. During kyphoplasty, a balloon is then inflated inside of the collapsed vertebral body. This way, the vertebral body height and spinal deformity can be restored. Also, cement is delivered into the cavity rather than directly to the bone. The cement hardens within minutes after injection and provides support for the fractured vertebral bone.
Both procedures are very effective in terms of controlling the pain. The choice of the procedure type is up to the treating physician. Since the procedure is minimally invasive, the patients can be discharged on the same day. Therefore, this surgery can be performed for old patients with the poor general condition. Cancer patients also can undergo these surgeries without interrupting chemo- or radiotherapy.
Tags: vertebral compression fracture diagnosis, vertebral compression fracture symptoms, vertebral compression fracture treatment, vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty, vertebral augmentation
Common symptoms of a brain tumor can vary greatly and depend on the tumor's location, size, and growth rate. They may include headaches, seizures, changes in personality or behavior, memory problems, and difficulty with balance, speech, hearing, or vision. Learn more on this topic in our Brain Tumors section.Learn More
Treatment options for a pituitary adenoma include observation, medication, surgery, and radiation therapy. The best treatment option depends on the size and type of the tumor, the patient's overall health, and personal preferences. Learn more about Pituitary Adenoma treatment in the corresponding section.Learn More
Scoliosis treatment depends on the degree of the curve and the patient's age. Non-surgical treatments include physical therapy, brace use, and pain relievers. In severe cases, surgery may be required to correct the curve. Learn more about scoliosis is treated in our Scoliosis Treatment section.Learn More
The diagnosis of TOS is made in conjunction with the patient's history, symptoms, physical examination, imaging tests, and neurophysiological tests. Treatment can include physical therapy, pain management, and surgery in severe cases. Learn more about treatment options in our Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment section.Learn More
Warning signs of a brain aneurysm can encompass sudden and severe headaches, blurred or double vision, neck pain, fainting or dizziness, and sensitivity to light. However, many aneurysms may not show symptoms until they leak or rupture. Learn more about this in our Brain Aneurysms section.Learn More
The need for surgery typically depends on the size, location, and growth rate of the aneurysm. Generally, aneurysms larger than 7mm, those located at certain parts of the brain, or those showing signs of growth on consecutive scans may require surgical intervention. To understand the specifics, it's best to consult with a neurosurgeon. More on this topic in our Brain Aneurysms section.Learn More
Currently, there's no standard blood test that can definitively diagnose brain cancer. While certain markers or changes may suggest a tumor's presence, imaging tests like MRI or CT scans remain primary diagnostic tools. Learn more about the diagnostic processes for brain cancer in our Brain Tumors section.Learn More
The growth rate of brain tumors can vary based on the type and grade of the tumor. Some tumors grow slowly and might not cause symptoms for years, while others can grow rapidly and present symptoms within weeks or months. The onset of symptoms also depends on the tumor's location and size. Learn more about the progression of brain tumors in our Brain Cancer section.Learn More
After brain surgery, patients might experience fatigue, mood fluctuations, or cognitive changes. Recovery time varies, and regular follow-ups are essential to monitor healing and detect any complications. Learn more about the recovery process for different disorders in our Brain Diseases Treatment section.Learn More
As we age, the spine undergoes natural degenerative changes. Discs may lose hydration and elasticity, vertebral bones might thin, and there can be a gradual narrowing of the spinal canal, which might lead to spinal stenosis or other conditions. Learn more about spine disorders in our Spine Diseases section.Learn More
Most patients start feeling better within 48 hours of kyphoplasty, with full recovery in a few weeks.Learn More
Recovery from vertebroplasty is typically quick, with most patients resuming normal activities within a few days.Learn More
Both procedures involve stabilizing fractured vertebrae, but kyphoplasty includes the inflation of a balloon to create space before cement is injected, whereas vertebroplasty injects cement directly without balloon inflation.Learn More
Patients with certain types of fractures, severe osteoporosis, or those with an active infection might not be suitable candidates for kyphoplasty. Always consult with a spinal specialist.Learn More
The three primary types of scoliosis are idiopathic (cause unknown, most common in adolescents), congenital (due to bone abnormalities present at birth), and neuromuscular (stemming from nerve or muscle disorders). Learn more about the differences between these types and the nature of this condition in the dedicated Scoliosis section.Learn More
Hunchback, or kyphosis, can be caused by poor posture, spinal trauma, congenital issues, osteoporosis, disc degeneration, or certain diseases like tuberculosis.Learn More
Tailbone pain, or coccydynia, without evident injury can arise from prolonged sitting, childbirth, tumors, infections, or can sometimes have an idiopathic (unknown) origin.Learn More