Pathological Spine Fracture

Pathological Spine Fracture

Pathological spine fractures are the result of an underlying disease process that affects the spine. They are called vertebral compression fractures and are common, and frequent in the elderly. They may be caused by osteoporosis, Paget’s disease, other diseases and spinal infections (osteomyelitis). Frequently pathological spine fractures result from tumors that start in the spine or from metastatic cancer. 10-15% of cancers affect the spine.

Management of a pathological spine fracture will depend on whether the cause is benign or malignant. In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, x-rays, MRI and CT scans can detect and evaluate pathological spine fractures.

Symptoms depend on the underlying disease or disorder. Symptoms of a pathological spine fracture may include: Pain in the back, legs and arms and neurological impairment.

Nonsurgical treatments are recommended for less severe pathological fractures. These include pain medications, bracing, and limiting physical activity. Surgery may be considered if the spine is unstable or where there is significant compression of the spinal cord and/or nerves.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a benign metabolic disorder that reduces bone density that causes weak and brittle bones. Osteoporosis increases the risk that even a minor or no trauma will break the bone. Osteoporosis is the most common cause of compression fractures in women who have gone through menopause. But osteoporotic fractures also affect people who have a history of long-term use of steroid medication, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

What is Paget’s disease?

Paget’s disease is a benign metabolic bone disorder. The cause is unknown. But it weakens the bone and causes pathological fractures.

What is Osteomyelitis?

Spinal Osteomyelitis is an infection of the vertebrae that has spread through the blood.  It can occur after surgery or spontaneously in people with malnutrition, HIV, IV Drug use, cancer, diabetes, obesity and immune suppression.

Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, a stiff neck, pain that is worse at night, weakness, numbness, and tingling. It can cause a spinal abscess and can result in paralysis. It typically affects the lumbar spine.

They are usually treated with antibiotics and antifungal mediations either orally or via an IV. Surgery to remove the infected tissues and bacteria may be needed when the infection creates spinal instability and weakness, which create the risk of spinal fracture.

Which metastatic cancers affect the spine?

  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Thyroid, and
  • Lung

At Ortho Illinois Spine Care our board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic and neuro surgeons are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders. Ortho Illinois Spine Care is a regional spine center for people in northern Illinois and the Chicago region who are suffering with neck and back pain. Our goal is to help relieve our patients’ pain and restore their function so you can get back to the life they love.