OSTEOPOROSIS and SPINAL FRACTURES
As we get older, our bones thin and our bone strength decreases. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become very weak and more likely to break. It often develops unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort until a bone breaks.
Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine. These spinal fractures are called vertebral compression fractures. They occur in nearly 700,000 patients each year and are almost twice as common as other fractures typically linked to osteoporosis, such as broken hips and wrists.
Not all vertebral compression fractures are due to osteoporosis. But when the disease is involved, a vertebral compression fracture is often a patient’s first sign of a weakened skeleton from osteoporosis (AAOS, 2015).
Facts about Osteoporosis:
- Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
- At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.
- Over 80% of all fractures in people 50+ are caused by osteoporosis.
- The risk of suffering a second spine fracture within the first 12 months following an initial vertebral fracture is 20%
Any injury to the vertebrae can have serious consequences because the spinal cord, the central nervous system’s connection between the brain and the body, runs through the center of the vertebrae. Damage to the spinal cord can result in paralysis or death. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the thoracic and lumbar spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body below the point of injury.
In the event of an accident resulting in a possible fracture in the neck or back, at first evaluation, it may be difficult to assess the extent of injuries. And the possibility of an osteoporosis diagnosis must be evaluated by a spine doctor.
At the accident scene, EMS rescue workers must be called. Once someone capable is available, they must first check vital signs, including the patient’s consciousness, ability to breathe, and heart rate. After these are stabilized, workers will assess obvious bleeding and limb-deforming injuries.
Before moving the patient, the EMS team must immobilize the patient in a cervical (neck) collar and backboard. The trauma team will perform a complete and thorough evaluation in the hospital emergency room.
Spine specialist, Dr Hamid Mir does comprehensive examinations to determine the extent of injury and to identify the specific treatment needs for each individual case.
Our spine centers in Los Angeles and Orange County lead by board certified orthopedic spine surgeon, Hamid Mir M.D. provide a variety of treatment options for spinal fractures including those of osteoporosis patients.
We will evaluate the spinal injury and fracture pattern to diagnose for osteoporosis if it hasn’t been established before. Scans are used to determine whether or not you have a spinal fracture and we can decide whether spine surgery is needed. Dr. Hamid Mir will analyze the severity of the fracture and confer with you before any decision.
Treatments for minor to moderate injuries may include stabilization of the spine with a brace or procedures such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty. Some fractures may need complex surgical procedures; which are all handled by our experienced team.
Directly treating osteoporosis is a long-term commitment involving specific exercise regimens and medications; these plans can be designed and tracked with your doctor.
Nutrition is the most important prevention. To avoid osteoporosis make sure your diet is rich in calcium and vitamin D. And never stop doing regular weight-bearing and strengthening exercises. They are very important for preventing osteoporosis and spinal fractures.
Talk to your doctor about a bone mineral density test to see how strong your bones are. Then take prevention steps to keep them strong. You can help protect yourself and your family if you:
- Always wear a seat belt when you are driving or a passenger in a car.
- Get checked regularly for osteoporotic risks.
- Wear the proper protective equipment for your sport and follow all safety regulations, such as having a spotter and appropriate cushioning mats.