The human body is no less than a marvel and like any machine it’s efficiency also decreases with age. The bones in our skeletal system are no exception to it and so they too get weaker with increasing age making them prone to fractures.
Osteoporosis is one such condition which fast forwards the weakening of bones and thus people suffering from this disease are more likely to get spinal fractures. Most commonly osteoporosis results in spinal fractures known as vertebral compression fractures. In this condition there is continuous bone weakening without any visible symptoms until there is a fracture. Roughly 17.9% of people above the age of 50 years of age suffer from vertebral fractures.
Most often spinal fractures are seen in the elderly but they can affect any person who has low bone mineral density. There is a direct neurological impact due to any change in vertebrae anatomy leading to the disability in humans.
Most of the spinal fractures occur in the lower spine and if it is severe then it can result in neurological symptoms like radiating pain which depends on the affected nerve. Physical examination of a patient with spinal fracture is very important as it helps to determine whether nerves are involved or not. In cases where nerve is involved patients exhibit symptoms like muscle weakness, changes in reflex and loss of sensation.
It is advised that one should not ignore back pain in old age as it can be a sign of osteoporosis and fracture of the spine and one must seek an early appointment with the physician to prevent any kind of long-term disability. To confirm the diagnosis imaging tests like MRI and x-ray are often required and once confirmed, patients can either be treated with medical management only or may need surgery depending upon the extent of the fracture. Nowadays with advancement in science, extensive procedures are no longer used; instead vertebral augmentation procedures like vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are used. In kyphoplasty, at the fracture site a small incision is made to insert a balloon tamp which is inflated to create a bone cavity. Then bone cement is lodged into the balloon to correct the deformity. The cement hardens quickly and acts as an internal cast. Whereas in vertebroplasty balloon tamp is not used and cement is directly inserted at the fracture site. These two methods of spinal fracture management are of choice these days as they have excellent prognosis and patients return to normal life soon after surgery.