Osteoporotic vertebral fractures
What is an Osteoporotic vertebral fracture?
Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by fragile bones that can fractures with minimal trauma. Osteoporosis can lead to spinal vertebral fractures.
What causes it?
- Primary osteoporosis - Type 1 - Post menopausal osteoporosis - due to estrogen deficiency.
- Primary osteoporosis - Type 2 - Senile osteoporosis - due to advancing age.
- Secondary osteoporosis - due to intake of certain drugs (long term steroid usage), chronic medical illnesses, bed bound patients etc.
What are the symptoms/effects?
Pain is the predominant symptom following an osteoporotic vertebral fracture. The pain is aggravated by activity and partially relieved by rest. Rarely, fragments from the fractured vertebra can compress the spinal cord or nerve roots causing pain, muscular weakness and altered sensations in the limbs.
How is it diagnosed?
Osteoporotic vertebral fractures are diagnosed by a thorough history and clinical examination and confirmed by x-rays and MRI scans. The MRI scans reveals the level of the lesion and the extent of neural compression (if present).
What are the treatment options?
A majority of patients with osteoporotic vertebral fractures can be managed with non-surgical treatment. The non-surgical treatment may consist of pain medications and rest. Occasionally a brace may be used till the pain subsides.
Surgery is indicated when the a) failure of symptoms to subside after non-operative treatment, b) significant weakness in the legs and feet at presentation and c) involvement of the bladder with difficulty in passing urine. The surgical options are variable and include vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty and fusion (with or without decompression).
Who is at risk?/How can I prevent it?
Osteoporosis can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, ensuring a balanced diet and exercising. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the incidence of fractures.