Types of Spinal Fractures and Why the Difference Matters

A broken spine is more likely to occur in a high-impact crash, such as a motor vehicle accident. There are different types of spinal fractures that an accident victim can sustain.

The type of spinal injury suffered matters because it impacts stability of the spine. Also, the location of the injury could play a role in spinal cord damage. Below are a few types of fracture patterns as described by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Flexion Fracture Pattern

This is one major type of spinal fracture that can lead to a compression fracture where the back (posterior) part of the vertebra remains intact but the front (anterior) breaks. Typically the spine remains stable and it doesn’t cause neurological problems. In other cases, an axial burst fracture may occur where both sides lose height.

Extension Fracture Pattern

This type can cause a flexion/distraction fracture, which causes the vertebra to get pulled apart. This can happen in a crash where the victim is wearing a seatbelt. Upon impact, the pelvis remains stabilized because of the restraint, but the upper body is thrust forward violently.

Rotation Fracture Pattern

This type of fracture can lead to a fracture-dislocation, an unstable injury. It causes displacement of the vertebrae and oftentimes, severe compression of the spinal cord. A transverse process fracture is uncommon, according to AAOS, and occurs as the spine rotates or bends sideways.

How the Type of Spinal Fracture Impacts Treatment and Prognosis

Flexion fractures usually don’t require surgery. The patient may have to wear a brace anywhere for several months though. However, if there is a significant loss of height in the vertebra or other complications, then surgery may be required.

Patients who have an extension fracture pattern may require various treatments depending on the location of injury. When damage occurs to the posterior ligaments of the spine, it usually requires surgery, reports the AAOS. Or if the fracture goes through the spinal discs, surgery will help with stabilization. But with a fracture that affects just the vertebral body, the patient may only need a brace for several months.

A fracture-dislocation is an unstable injury that many times results in serious nerve and/or spinal cord damage. To stabilize the spine, surgery is necessary. But since this type of injury tends to happen in a high-velocity crash, there are usually life-threatening injuries that require immediate medical attention. Therefore, surgery for the spinal fracture may not happen right away.

The prognosis after a spinal injury is most times good when it’s a stable injury that requires nonsurgical treatment as long as there’s a gradual increase in physical activity and some type of rehabilitation involved. But an unstable injury could lead to complications such as paralysis and impaired mobility.

Seek Legal Advice after a Spinal Fracture

If another driver’s negligence caused the accident and broken spine, it’s important to understand one’s legal options. Spinal fractures can lead to mounting medical bills and weeks (or longer) out from work. For those whose injuries are severe, it may even prevent the individual from returning to work. Between medical costs and the loss of income, it can create a significant financial burden.

An attorney can explain one’s right to pursue compensation through an injury claim. But it may also allow for recovery of other damages such as pain and suffering, reduced quality of life and more. Call D.J. Banovitz if you are in the Denver area: 303-300-5060.

D.J. Banovitz’ career has always concentrated on trial practice and he has litigated hundreds of cases. His passion and sole career focus has been to seek justice for people suffering from personal injuries as the result of someone else’s negligence. The hallmark of the Law Office of D.J. Banovitz, is the total commitment to professionalism, quality, and personalized care of your injury case. D.J. has dedicated his professional life to helping those most in need and is a proud and active member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. His experience includes volunteering for Colorado Rural Legal Services in Montrose, the Colorado Aids Project, consumer law, family law, criminal defense, and Alternative Defense Counsel for juveniles in Denver.