Burst Fracture

A burst fracture is a type of spinal injury that occurs when an excessive force is applied to the spine, causing one or more vertebrae to break or shatter. This condition can lead to serious complications, including nerve damage, spinal cord injury, and chronic pain.  This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for a burst fracture.

What Causes Burst Fractures?

Burst fractures are most commonly caused by severe trauma to the spine. This can happen during a car accident, a fall from a significant height, or a sports injury. In some cases, individuals with weakened bones due to osteoporosis or other underlying health conditions may be more susceptible to experiencing a burst fracture even from less severe impacts.

Symptoms of Burst Fracture

The symptoms of a burst fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the specific vertebrae affected. Common symptoms include:

– Severe and immediate back pain
– Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the limbs
– Loss of bladder or bowel control (in severe cases)
– Decreased mobility

If you experience any of these symptoms following a traumatic event, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately to prevent further complications.

Diagnosing Burst Fractures

Diagnosis of a burst fracture typically involves a combination of physical examinations and imaging tests. The most common imaging tests used to diagnose spinal injuries include:


X-rays are often the first step in diagnosing a burst fracture. They can provide clear images of the bones in the spine and identify any fractures. However, X-rays may not always show the full extent of the injury, especially if there is damage to the spinal cord or nerves.

CT Scans

Computed tomography (CT) scans offer a more detailed view of the spine than X-rays. CT scans can help identify the specifics of the fracture, including the number of vertebrae involved and the extent of the damage. This imaging test is important for planning the appropriate treatment strategy.

MRI Scans

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are essential for assessing any potential damage to the spinal cord or nerves resulting from the burst fracture. MRI scans provide detailed images of soft tissues, including the spinal cord, and can help identify any areas of compression or injury.

Treatment Options for Burst Fracture

The treatment for a burst fracture depends on the severity of the injury and the individual’s overall health. Treatment options can range from non-surgical methods to surgical intervention.

Non-Surgical Treatment

For less severe burst fractures, non-surgical treatment may be sufficient. This can include:

– Pain management with medication
– Wearing a back brace to stabilize the spine
– Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the spine and improve mobility

Surgical Treatment

In cases where the burst fracture has led to significant instability in the spine, or there is compression on the spinal cord or nerves, surgical treatment may be necessary. Surgical options can include:

– Decompression surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves
– Spinal fusion surgery to stabilize the affected vertebrae
– Vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty to repair the fractured vertebra


A burst fracture is a severe spinal injury that requires immediate medical attention.  With the right diagnosis and treatment plan, including the use of imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans, individuals with a burst fracture can make a successful recovery and return to their daily activities. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have suffered a burst fracture or are experiencing back pain following a traumatic event.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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