Spine Fractures and Trauma Care | Loyola Medicine

Spine Fractures and Trauma

Advanced Techniques to Diagnose and Treat Spine Fractures and Trauma

Loyola Medicine is designated by the state of Illinois as a Level I Trauma Center. If you have experienced spine fracture or trauma, you will be seen by a highly skilled trauma team, including fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons and trauma specialists. These experienced specialists will work as an integrated team with neurologists and neurosurgeons to develop an individualized treatment plan for you. 

Spine fractures and trauma are serious injuries most often caused by vehicle or industrial accidents, falls, gunshot wounds or serious sports injuries. Injuries to the vertebrae (spinal bones) can pinch or compress the spinal cord or the nerves leading from it. 

A spinal cord injury (SCI) can occur if the spinal cord is pulled, pressed sideways or compressed. Fractures may also be caused by osteoporosis and regular wear and tear on your vertebrae. Your Loyola doctor will categorize spinal problems based on where they are located: cervical (neck), thoracic (chest level) or lumbar (lower back).

Why Choose Loyola for Treatment of Spine Fractures and Trauma?

Loyola’s orthopaedic trauma surgeons and neurosurgeons are highly experienced and skilled in treating patients with spinal fractures and trauma and are able to treat a full range of cases, from the routine to the most complex, with great outcomes.

Loyola uses advanced intraoperative imaging, allowing surgeons to use CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology to capture detailed 3D pictures of your spine during surgery. 

How are Spine Fractures and Trauma Diagnosed?

If you have experienced trauma, the first doctor you will see will most often be an emergency medicine specialist. Your Loyola trauma team may bring in doctors from other specialties to assess your condition and determine whether or not you have internal injuries. Your doctors will consider your symptoms and try to make you as comfortable as possible while taking the time to diagnose your condition and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Common symptoms of spine fractures and trauma include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Bruising
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Muscle spasticity (stiffness or tightness)
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Sensory changes
  • Swelling
  • Weakness or paralysis

Your spine will be kept in a neck or back brace until doctors have obtained necessary diagnostic imaging tests, including:

  • Bone scan
  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Myelogram (an X-ray of the spine after injecting a dye)
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Spinal angiogram

How are Spine Fractures and Trauma Treated?

Your Loyola doctors will first be concerned with managing your pain and stabilizing your spine to prevent further injury. Steroids are used to reduce swelling. Braces or traction are used to immobilize the spine while it heals.

Spine surgery may be needed to:

  • Fuse broken vertebrae
  • Place spinal braces
  • Realign the vertebrae (spinal bones)
  • Remove disk fragments (diskectomy) or bone fragments
  • Remove tissue that presses on the spinal cord (decompression surgery)

If you have compression fractures, your Loyola doctor may recommend kyphoplasty. In this procedure, a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into a fracture and inflated. A bone cement is injected into the cavity created by the balloon to stabilize the bone.

If you suffered paralysis or a loss of movement, you will need physical therapy, occupational therapy or orthopaedic rehabilitation to help you heal and get back to your regular activities.

Research and Clinical Trials for Spine Fractures and Trauma

Basic research in the spinal cord injury repair laboratory at Loyola involves exploration of novel treatments for craniocervical abnormalities, experimental transplantation of neutrophils in spinal cord injury, stem cell transplants and molecular events in the adult injured spinal cord.