Vertebral Compression Fractures (VCFs) occur when the bony block or vertebral bone collapses, which can lead to severe pain, deformity and loss of height. It is estimated that more than 900,000 people suffer from VCFs every year. While VCFs are most common in patients suffering from osteoporosis, they also can be caused by trauma to the back or tumors spreading to the spine .
The main clinical symptoms of VCFs may include any of the following, alone or in combination:
The impact of VCFs on quality of life is significant, resulting in:
VCFs also are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Early, accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention of VCFs is paramount, due to the number of potential adverse effects.
People who have sustained one osteoporotic VCF are five times more likely to sustain a second VCF, making diagnosis an important part of preventing further damage to the spine. Occasionally a VCF can be present with either minor symptoms or no symptoms, and two-thirds of all VCFs go undiagnosed. This is due to a number of factors, including non-specific pain description, the priority of co-morbidities, a low index of suspicion, and inaccurate X-rays (42 percent of symptomatic fractures do not appear collapsed). In fact, experts suggest that patients report moderate or severe fractures only 50 percent of the time.
Osteoporosis is the most common cause of VCFs. According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis is defined as a systemic skeletal disease characterized by compromised bone strength that predisposes the affected bone to fracture.
Osteoporosis-related disability confines patients to more immobile days in bed than stroke, heart attack or breast cancer. VCFs can lead to back pain, loss of height, deformity, immobility, increased number of bed days and even reduced pulmonary function.
An estimated 55 percent of the people over 50 years of age have osteoporosis or are at great risk of getting osteoporosis: 80 percent of those are women. In fact, approximately one in two women over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her remaining lifetime.
There are a variety of treatment options available for VCFs. It is important that the treatment addresses the pain, the fracture and the underlying medical issue that caused the fracture.
Conservative medical management, also known as non-operative care includes:
Invasive back surgery options are generally considered as a last resort. Back surgery options provide pain relief by fusing, or joining together, two vertebrae to eliminate pain-causing motion. Typically, metal screws are inserted into the vertebrae and then attached to metal plates or rods at the back of the spine.
When conservative treatment options have proven ineffective, a minimally invasive surgical procedure may be considered. as treatment options:
If you have been diagnosed with vertebral compression fracture, or are interested in learning how about treatment options to manage your pain, please contact our pain management experts at The Spine and Pain Institute of New York in Manhattan, New York and Staten Island, New York. We would be happy to make an appointment for a consultation and provide additional information about other treatment options.